The Washington Post

FAFSA apologizes for falling into an Internet trap with ‘Help me I’m poor’ meme

Fafsa twitter
Oops. (

The meme, one of the Internet’s greatest blessings, is now the Federal Student Aid office’s curse.

The Twitter account for FAFSA, the Education Department’s federal financial aid application system used by nearly every college student in the country, sent out a tweet Tuesday night that included a popular meme taken from the hit comedy “Bridesmaids.”

“If this is you, then you’d better fill out your FAFSA:,” read the tweet, accompanied by the image of actress Kristen Wiig and the caption “Help me. I’m poor.”

The meme was taken from this popular clip of the film, which might evoke a chuckle from anyone familiar with the movie:

But in the context of poverty and access to higher education, the tweet fell flat and the backlash came swiftly.

Beyond violating the most basic “though shalt not make fun of poverty in America” tenet, the tweet also fed into one of the more damaging misconceptions about FAFSA: that it is only a resource for low-income students.

FAFSA, of course, is a resource to nearly every student — and most colleges require filling out FAFSA as a qualification not just for federal financial aid, but also for school-specific grants or scholarships.

At the recommendation of President Obama’s “Middle Class Task Force,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan simplified the FAFSA form, which was at one point an unnecessarily onerous deterrent to students applying for financial aid.

FAFSA deleted its “Help me. I’m poor” tweet not long after sending it and issued an apology on Twitter: “We apologize for the insensitivity of our previous tweet. Our goal is to make college a reality for all. We’re very sorry.”

You can see how sorry FAFSA is here:

Of course, as more organizations and institutions try to recruit social media-savvy employees, these types of public relations disasters will probably become more common — if only because memes and tact don’t always mix.

Abby Phillip is a national political reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at On Twitter: @abbydphillip



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Colby Itkowitz · June 25, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.