Most of us are all too familiar with the ways the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession have disrupted career planning. The idea of going to college right now sounds out of reach for many of us. But here’s why it’s worth considering a second look, even as many economic uncertainties remain.
There Is More Funding Assistance than Ever Before
Most people in Washington qualify for financial aid, thanks in part to emergency funds from the federal government as well as the recently expanded Washington College Grant. Even families with median incomes of $97,000 per year qualify for state grants, which do not need to be repaid. Additionally, if you are unemployed, even more opportunities are open to a free education (yes, free).
- Unemployed, laid off, furloughed, and underemployed workers can qualify for free Workforce grants to pay for job training and sometimes living expenses. Learn more about how to apply or attend an upcoming info session.
- Take advantage of federal pandemic relief money. Colleges have special emergency grants set aside to help students, most of which do not have income requirements. Check out Shoreline’s COVID-19 Pandemic Assistance Fund, in which students can apply for up to $2,115 each quarter for tuition, books, technology, housing, groceries, childcare, or healthcare.
- Shoreline also offers a free laptop loan program and technology training and support to help students transition successfully to online learning.
It’s a Good Time to Sharpen Your Skills
Unemployment remains high across the country. Jobs, even minimum wage positions, are harder to come by. That makes it a perfect time to focus on your skills. If you’re receiving unemployment benefits or live in a low-income household, you likely even qualify for free or very low-cost training to skill up for a new job.
- Identify a skill you’d like to develop, whether it’s a “hard” technical skill like project management, or a “soft” people skill such as improving communication skills (something employers in every field value).
- Sign up for an online course that you can do on your own time.
- If you’re not sure where to start, attend a virtual college info session or talk with an enrollment specialist.
You Can Start Small and Take on More as You Go
Community colleges are flexible and continuously admit new students of all stripes. You can start or stop when you want, sample courses from multiple campuses, or enroll part time and still advance your goals or knock out degree requirements.
While your future may feel unsettled at this moment, the pandemic can also be an opportunity to think about your career path in a new light or pivot in a new direction. Give yourself permission to imagine what you would like to be doing in three or four years, in a post-COVID-19 world. Take some time to reflect on what is important to you. The more you can clarify what you want, the easier it is to map out an educational or career plan that resonates.
As we all struggle through pandemic-related challenges, one thing is certain: you don’t have to have everything figured out to begin moving forward. You can look for small, purposeful steps toward a goal, even if it takes time to get to the final destination. Doing something now, no matter how small, will reap benefits that long outlast COVID-19. Later, you will be so glad you did.