Last updated: December 31. 2013 2:25PM
Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

Emily M. Hobbs/Sampson IndependentSECU FAFSA Day coordinator Stephane Barnes says she is looking forward to helping local students get their financial aid forms ready for the upcoming college year.
Emily M. Hobbs/Sampson IndependentSECU FAFSA Day coordinator Stephane Barnes says she is looking forward to helping local students get their financial aid forms ready for the upcoming college year.
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Sampson County high school students who are starting college next fall have an opportunity to get ahead of the game this coming February. With tax time drawing near, it is extremely important for parents of college-bound students to file their taxes quickly, according to officials with the College Foundation of North Carolina, a service provided by the state.

College-bound students who need financial aid are going to realize that colleges require a FAFSA form to apply for loans, grants, college scholarships, and other programs geared towards getting students into the college classroom. The FAFSA form is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and for those that need help with the application, a chance is coming up with the college FAFSA Day.

“Sometimes parents are scared that they will do the FAFSA wrong, or feel lost,” said Stephanie Barnes, the Clinton branch SECU coordinator for the local FAFSA Day.

“Our goal is to make everyone more comfortable with the FAFSA process,” she said.

FAFSA Day will be Feb. 22 this year and will be hosted at the Clinton branch, which is located at 221 North Blvd., near to the Employment Security Commission, and volunteers will be on hand to help from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

“As long as we have their taxes, we are good to go,” said Barnes in an interview on Friday. She said that coming prepared is one of the most important things that a student can do that day to makes the process easier. The student and one of their parents also need to have their PIN number ready to complete their application. The PIN number can be applied for beforehand online.

This is the fifth or sixth year that they — Clinton’s State Employees’ Credit Union — has been participating in the FAFSA Day. They have about 20 students that come in each year. Students that come in for FAFSA Day will have individualized attention to work on their applications with one of the SECU staff members. The staff volunteer their time on that Saturday to help students get their FAFSA ready.

Colleges, both public and private, utilize the FAFSA form to determine financial need eligibility for loans, scholarships, and grants. Items that are analyzed include household size, income, as well as other students in the household that are in college at the same time.

“The staff is looking forward to working with students,” said Barnes.

Generally the FAFSA Day is before most deadlines for colleges, but students are encouraged to research the individual requirements of their chosen schools and see what the deadlines in place are so that they don’t miss out. If a college has an earlier deadline then the student should adhere to that instead of waiting for FAFSA Day.

Students that cannot make it on Feb. 22 to the FAFSA Day can contact the SECU in Clinton to see about getting assistance if they need it.

“If they don’t make it that day we will help them anytime,” said Barnes. adding that she wants to make sure students have the time and attention they need when they come in.

“We do ask that students call ahead, if they can, to make sure we aren’t busy,” said Barnes.

Some of the community colleges are also hosting FAFSA Day, including Bladen Community College in Dublin and also James Sprunt in Kenansville. To register for one of those locations visit and learn more about what is available in the surrounding areas.

The FAFSA Day program is offered by College Foundation of North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and State Employees’ Credit Union.

For more information about the Clinton SECU FAFSA Day, please contact Stephanie Barnes at 910-592-6103.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at

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