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What I wish I would have known when graduating from college

"Regardless of how much support we're given as undergrad students, we will still fail to succeed if ill-equipped to pusue career or higher education after graduating from undergrad."

I have survived exactly 91 days of graduate school.


Barely.

The truth is, going to graduate school is a big decision. The transition from college is just as important as the transition to college. However, there are much fewer resources to assist young adults who have experienced foster care as they transition into career or even higher education from undergrad programs. ETV funding, for example, is no longer available to students age 23 or older. Scholarship opportunities like the Michigan Education Trust Fostering Futures Scholarship aren’t available for graduate students, and many campus based support programs aren’t open to supporting grad students who have experienced foster care.
Regardless of how much support we’re given as undergrad students, we will still fail to succeed if ill-equipped to pursue career or higher education after graduating from undergrad. I’m realizing that leaving the environment of a campus based support program can feel very much like “aging out” of foster care does.

These are some things I wish I would have considered or been prepared for when making decisions about which path to take following college graduation:
• I wish the words “oh yeah, I can definitely commit to this when I’m in grad school” wouldn’t have ever come out of my mouth before I actually experienced a few weeks of school.
• Grad school forces you to grow, and I think it's important to have space for that growth in your life. Grad school involves excess amounts of critical thinking, reflection, and integration of theory and practice both in and outside of the classroom. It challenges you, pushes you to (and sometimes past) your limits, and forces you outside of your comfort zone.
• As I mentioned earlier, the options for scholarships and financial assistance are much fewer than for undergrad. An emergency savings account or financial resources for unexpected expenses is a great thing to think about.
• When choosing a school or next step, I would really encourage young people not to make any decisions solely based on current relationships or connections in their area. One of the main reasons I chose to attend the grad program I’m in is so that I could stay within the area I’ve lived for the past few years, close to my friends and people I love. Well, shortly after officially making the decision to attend school, many people close to me made the decision to also transition into a new phase and place in their life for jobs or school – which meant many of them moved away. In the end, it wouldn’t have really mattered if I had moved out of state because I was going to be separated from the people closest to me, anyway. I think it’s important to consider the permanency of the factors playing into “next step” decisions.
• I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the future when making a decision about what to pursue after graduation and neglect the present. Going to graduate school, for example, may be the most logical next step depending on what career a student desires. But if that student isn’t really ready for grad school or doesn’t have the resources to sustain them through a grad program, it’s not really the best next step – securing the resources and emotional/intellectual/physical capacity to thrive in grad school is.
• Regardless of where life takes you following undergrad, one thing nearly all young people who have experienced time in foster care are impacted by is the role their childhood history plays in their life. For individuals pursuing the human service field, especially those working within child welfare or foster care, personal experience in care may play a larger influence in the connection between personal and professional lives. Time in care can also be a huge asset to working in that field and lend to a practitioner’s ability to empathize with others and understand the barriers facing them.
The Seita Scholars Program is implementing a new program component this year, the Graduation Preparation Seminar (GPS). I had the privilege of sitting in on the first session, and loved what I heard. I think that it’s really important for professionals working with young adults to acknowledge the importance of all transitions – not just the transition from care to college.

Readers can email Brittany at cfs_fsmstories@wmich.edu
 

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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." 

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