Growing up as a foster child is hard enough. There isn’t much stability and not everyone in the foster care system
is afforded the opportunity to get a quality education. What is even more frightening is that you find yourself out on your own at 18 and you are wondering exactly how you are going to make it in the world. College is the answer! Getting a great education almost guarantees you a brighter future. This guide will help you figure out how to pay for all those costs associated with going to college.
1. Apply for federal financial aid. In case you didn’t know, almost all foster youth are automatically eligible to receive federal financial aid to help pay tuition and related costs at accredited colleges and universities. Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible after January 1st of any year. When you fill out the application, you will be asked a series of questions. One will be. “Were you or are you an orphan or ward of the court until age 18?” If you were in the foster care system and did not live with your parents, you will answer “yes” to that question. You will skip entering your parent’s information and only your income will count towards your eligibility for federal financial aid. In most cases your EFC (expected family contribution-the amount your and your family are expected to pay for your education) will be zero. This will increase your chances of receiving the maximum amount of financial aid you are eligible for. There is also a question that asks if you are interested in work study. Work study is where you work a job to earn part of your financial aid. If you have the time to work, check this box. You can gain valuable experience while earning financial aid.
2. Visit your schools Financial Aid Office. Find out what kind of scholarships you are eligible for from their institution. Apply for all that you are eligible for to increase your chances of receiving extra money. Remember to apply for federal financial aid first! Most places want to know that you have applied for that source of aid before you apply for theirs.
3. Visit the Orphan Foundation of America’s website. The Orphan Foundation of America is an organization dedicated to helping former foster youth achieve their post secondary educational goals. Every year, they give out scholarships to former foster youth and orphans attending undergraduate or graduate educational programs. In addition they have a wealth of resources posted on their website. Visit them online at www.orphan.org.
4. Visit the San Diego Foundation. They give out a wealth of scholarships. One of them is the Daddy Longlegs Scholarship for foster youth up to aged 25 in the San Diego, CA area. Check them out at www.sdfoundation.org for more details.
5. Check out your states ILP or ILS Program. The Independent Living Program (ILP) or Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP) in your state may have additional resources for you or even administer a scholarship program. Find out who they are in your area and what they can do for you. Each new resource found can help you get closer to your goal.
6. Conduct a scholarship search online. Search online at www.msn.com, www.google.com, or www.yahoo.com for scholarships that fit your critiera. Apply for everything you are eligible for. If you are not accepted, do not be discouraged. Keep searching and applying.
Lastly, keep confidence in yourself and keep looking for resources that can help you. Any amount from $1, $1,000 and up can help you. Higher education is the key to success. Don’t let a small thing such as money get in the way of obtaining your education! Good luck in your search.