ASAP: Right on Time

The financial aid and academic support program for NYC community colleges helped me find my footing.

by Khyron Lewis

When I graduated high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I decided to go to community college because New York state recently made community college tuition free for middle and low-income students through its Excelsior program (see link at bottom of story). But that only covers tuition, not books or other expenses. And it does not cover classes you retake to bring up your grade. My guidance counselor suggested that I apply for ASAP to cover what Excelsior would not.

ASAP stands for Accelerated Study in Associate Programs. It’s a program offered for full-time associate (two-year) degree students at nine CUNY colleges. It provides financial, academic, and other kinds of support and is available at Borough of Manhattan, Bronx, Hostos, Kingsborough, LaGuardia, and Queensborough Community Colleges; College of Staten Island and Medgar Evers College; and New York City College of Technology.

The process to get into the ASAP program was simple. I attended an ASAP information session at my school, joined on the spot, and then went to the orientation for incoming students. I also had to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but I would have had to do that anyway to get financial aid.

ASAP provides a lot of financial support. If you are eligible for financial aid, the program provides a tuition waiver. That means if a scholarship or other aid you receive doesn’t cover your entire tuition, ASAP will make up the rest. One semester, for example, I was stuck with a $2,000 balance because I was retaking classes. ASAP covers those costs.

Benefits Beyond Cash

ASAP also gives you an unlimited MetroCard each semester. At first, I thought this was the best part of the program because I wasn’t limited to three rides per day like my high school MetroCards. I also got help paying for books.

ASAP also provides other resources that helped me adjust to college life. All incoming students are assigned an advisor to help them set goals and assist them throughout their time in school. ASAP requires students to meet with their advisors every month.

On ASAP Orientation day, a female advisor led the opening presentation. She was loud and commanding, and I remember thinking, “God, I hope I don’t get assigned to her.” I thought that because she was so bossy, we wouldn’t be a good fit and I would have to request an advisor change.

Sure enough, she was my advisor! Though at first I was nervous about her, I grew to appreciate her, and now we have a great connection. She helped teach me how to study and manage my schedule, and she checked up on my mental health and stress levels. Every month I knew I was going to be able to talk with someone who would help me stay on track.

Despite her help, I had a difficult time managing my grades my second semester and failed three classes. I was convinced that I was going to get kicked out of ASAP and that I was a failure. But my advisor extended a hand to me and showed me the steps I needed to take to get back on track. She even worked with me over the summer, and we talked often over email. Now, I have a 3.5 GPA.

Going to college brings a lot of new expectations I was not prepared for. Having a support system like ASAP, where I was cared for and listened to, took away a lot of the stress.

I’m scheduled to graduate in spring 2020. I plan to continue my education by transferring to a four-year college. My advisor and I have been discussing which senior colleges would fit me best. With my experience in the college atmosphere and the help I got from ASAP, I’m confident that I can get my bachelor’s degree or even my master’s in the future.

To see if you qualify for ASAP, visit the ASAP webpage.

Having a support system like ASAP, where I was cared for and listened to, took away a lot of the stress.
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