Now is the right time for college

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

You can do this!
The idea of going to college sounds out of touch to many right now. But here’s why it’s worth considering a second look, even as things are a bit unsettled right now.

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.

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to begin unlocking money for college and becoming eligible for certain scholarships and other aid.

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 Community College’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.

Our college 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.

While remote learning may have its challenges, many people taking online college courses are realizing that it has also made it easier to squeeze in classes while also juggling work and family commitments. 

Shoreline student Sunshine Cheng says taking asynchronous classes (that do not meet at a particular date or time) has allowed her to try out courses she would not have otherwise due to her work schedule. She adds, “because everything has been remote, I have also been able to take on new internships and jobs that I didn’t have time for before.”

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).

Research career paths online, in podcasts, books, or from trusted people in your life. Find out which industries are likely to see job growth after the COVID-19 crisis subsides and see what skills and backgrounds people in those industries have.

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.

“The first few quarters I was at Shoreline, I only took one class at a time so that I could learn how to balance school and work, and ease into a new routine with minimal stress,” says Cheng.

This is a smart option right now, even if you’ve decided to take a “gap year” from full-time studies. While taking time off from school may sound appealing, the truth is jobs, internships, and travel opportunities are limited right now. Pausing your studies now may simply delay your progress, without much to show at the end of your year.

Cheng has advice for other students, “Just take one class in something you know or think you might be interested in. I think it’s easier to take on the rigor of college coursework if the subject is something you are already interested in learning more about.”

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 deal with 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.

Learn more about Shoreline Community College programs and funding opportunities, or attend an upcoming virtual admissions event.


Unknown March 20, 2021 at 8:05 AM  

What a joke! I can't make ends meet as an adjunct at two schools. Shoreline couldn't offer me classes this quarter for the first time in 6 years. I used to get extra classes. Now is a good time to take classes? Really? Whatever. Too bad the majority of people see no value in much of what the college offers because their prospective employers do not care about what we do. But then they whine for people with people skills! Make our courses mandatory and you can cut costs on sad "diversity and inclusion" attempts.

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