March 27, 2013

The last thing students need is another acronym tossed their way. But FAFSA’s an important one to know.

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Basically, anyone who wants financial aid for college will need to fill out the FAFSA—a lengthy, electronic application used to determine the dollar amount a student will be expected to contribute towards college.

Managed by the Office of Federal Student Aid which is part of the U.S. Department of Higher Education, FAFSA forms require lengthy information about one’s taxes, dependency status, finances and more.

Because filing can be an arduous task, for the past few years, BMCC’s Office of Financial Aid decided to make FAFSA filing (for the Fall 2013 and Sprimg 2014 semesters) a lively experience, with games, giveaways, interactive videos, and more; this year’s Financial Aid Awareness Day theme was “Hollywood.”

Financial Aid staffers were on-hand at Richard Harris Terrace, ready to answer all student questions. Their computer booths were surrounded by interactive booths games and raffle tables to keep the momentum light and fun.

Richard Harris Terrace was adorned with Hollywood must-haves such as clapboards, director’s chairs, and a trademark ‘red carpet’ walkway.

“I love Financial Aid Awareness Day; I came up with this many years ago,” said Howard Entin, Director, Office of Financial Aid. “I read an article that said applying for financial aid can cause anxiety for students; and they’d just walk away from the whole process. I was convinced we could do something about that, which led to a Financial Aid Awareness Day party.”

He adds, “The event is festive, students can relax, they can explore our Website, our videos..it all helps them complete the process with greater ease.”

Students grateful for the assistance

Student David Joel appeared in a BMCC promotional video about FAFSA. The Washington, D.C. native said without financial aid, he never would be able to attend BMCC.

“I wouldn’t be able to support myself—my bills, my education—without FAFSA,” said the Theatre major. “The funds also helped me purchase equipment I needed to launch my career as a voice-over actor.”

In the same video, student Nicole Lynn portrayed a student applying online for FAFSA. Life imitates art; as Lynn not only played a student seeking financial aid—she was one.

“With the declining economy you really do need to look into getting financial aid. It helped me during my first year here,” she said. “I had no way of paying for school. I was trying to make my way with a part-time job, but it wasn’t enough. I’m graduating this semester with a Theatre degree because financial aid helped me out.”

Robell Torres is a work-study student in the Office of Financial Aid. His advice for students feeling overwhelmed by FAFSA paperwork? “It’s all about time management. Be organized, don’t stress, and be patient if you have to wait on any long lines.”

Apply fast

According to Entin—who was honored this year at the event with his own special Director’s Chair: “The FAFSA is the base application for financial aid. Apply for it early; students who file early will find by the fall that everything is in place. This semester we provided 16,000 students with money for books because they responded quickly.”

Entin and his staffers are “committed to helping students remove financial obstacles as best we can. It’s not about how much tuition costs; it’s about the fact that they’re college students and we’re here to help them get through school successfully.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Students can fill out the FAFSA online at the FAFSA Website, or they can apply through the mail with a paper form. The Office of Federal Student Aid strongly recommends the online application because it conducts immediate error checking, and it tends to speed up the application process by a few weeks.

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  • Financial Aid Awareness Day encourages students to apply early for financial aid
  • A celebration on-campus makes the process less daunting

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