Early decision (ED) and early action (EA) plans can be beneficial to students — but only to those…
Research indicates that while 70 percent of youth aging out of foster care desire to go to college (Courtney, Terao, & Bost, 2004), only about 20 percent of college-qualified foster youth enroll, compared to 60 percent of non-foster youth (Wolanin, 2005). Applying to college can feel overwhelming, and like there are so many details you'll never be able to do it all. This toolkit is meant to provide you with a road map and timeline of things that you can do to make it easier for you to go through the college admissions process! You will find a link to our comprehensive Financial Aid toolkit, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to receive the most financial aid support! Finally, the National Association for College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) has produced a comprehensive Guide to the College Admissions Process, that students and professionals can use throughout the admissions process.
It can be helpful to find a supportive adult to go through this process with you, such as a caseworker, high school counselor or teacher, foster parent, or other supportive adult. A good idea would be for the two of you to sit together and review this toolkit together! Other professionals who can be helpful in applying for college would be Education Planners and MYOI (Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative) Coordinators, who have experience working directly with students in foster care.
Meet with your guidance counselor and tell them you want to go to college. In fact, tell everyone you know (family, friends, coaches, teachers, caseworker, supportive adults)! The more people that know about your plans, the more people will be able to support you. Many institutions have TRIO programs that help to support students access higher education, even before they graduate high school!
Did you know that there is a law that will help you stay in the same school, even if your placement changes? It's called the McKinney-Vento Act, and it exists because when students are asked to change schools, that can lead to them falling behind, and making it harder to graduate (Smithgall, C., Gladden, R.M., Howard, E., Goerge, R., Courtney, M. (2004). This website will explain all of the resources available to you to help you stay in the same school.
Being involved in extra-curricular activities shows colleges that you are interested in different things. Think about joining a club at school, or becoming involved in the Michigan Youth Opportunities Inititative, or Foster Club!
Sign up for Advanced Placement (AP) classes! Taking advanced classes show colleges that you can do challenging work, and you may even be able to earn college credit for those classes!
Practice taking the SAT or ACT : https://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-practice-test
Look for Campus Support Programs in Michigan. Every day, more campuses are developing supports for students from foster care, and they offer a range of supports from tuition scholarships to campus coaching!
Visiting a college campus is one of the best ways to learn whether or not a school is a good fit for you. During a campus visit, you can meet with admissions staff, campus support programs, receive a tour and much more! Click here to see resources to help make the most of your visit.
If you can't get to an individual school, College Fairs are a great way to learn about different schools. College Fairs are where many schools come together in one location and have tables with information about each school. Click here to find out when and where you can attend! Also, this helpful College Fair Checklist can help you get the most out of your visit!
Identify the schools that you would like to apply to and find out their admissions application deadlines. Some can be as early as October, especially schools with Early Admission.
Find a way to organize all of your deadlines, forms, and applications. You can do this!
Take the SAT or ACT.- if you are in foster care, then you qualify to have the SAT fee waived. You also qualify for 4 "request for fee waivers" which remove the fees associated with college applications.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - FAFSA becomes available in January. Completing the FAFSA by March 1st gives you the best chance at getting the most financial aid. College goal Sundays are events where you can take the FAFSA form and get assistance in completing it! (see below for a link to FSM's Financial Aid Toolkit for more Financial Aid info)
Visit campus and schedule an interview with the Admissions Office and with the Campus Support Program as available. Asking for an interview shows the school that you are enthusiastic and interested! Ask questions that will help you figure out if the school is a good fit.
There are a lot of Financial Aid resources available to students with experience in foster care. FSM's Financial Aid Toolkit will take you step-by-step through the Financial Aid process.
Transitioning into college is a big, wonderful step! It may also be happening around the time you turn 18, which means you are planning to transition out of the child welfare system. Talk to your caseworker about Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care and extended medicaid, to make sure you are getting all of the support and resources you deserve!
Fostering Success Michigan is a statewide initiative that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline."Make a Donation