It’s that time. After going through all of the ups and downs of the foster care system, it’s time to start applying for college. And college, while it is wonderful and amazing, is also expensive. But the fortunate thing is, children who were in foster care have a lot of resources to help them get financially ready for college.
- Children who were in foster care might qualify as “independent” students.
Any child who was in the foster care system after the age of 13 is listed as an independent student on the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) form – even if the student is currently adopted. Being categorized as “independent” can qualify the student for more aid opportunities from the government, including Stafford Loans, Pell Grants, and work-study opportunities. (For more information on adoption, see http://www.nyfoundling.org).
- Specific scholarships just for foster care
A simple Google search for “foster care scholarships” turns up 1,550,000 hits in less than a second. There are tons of scholarships available specifically to children who were in the foster care system at some point during their lives. Just make sure to read the specific guidelines for the scholarship (they may have age requirements, length of time in foster care requirements, etc).
- Scholarships in general
If children who were in foster care can use that to their advantage, I’m all for that. But it’s also important to remember that there are scholarships for *everything* (left-handed? Go to prom in a duck-tape outfit? Tall?) There are, of course, scholarships for academics, sports, and some are need-based. Also, make sure to look on the university’s webpage – they will usually have scholarships for their students.
- Financial advisors at the school
There are a lot of steps to getting into college. There are lots of forms and papers and requirements and it can all be very, very confusing. However, there are also people whose job it to help students figure it all out. Call the financial aid office and make an appointment with an advisor. Don’t just go and stand in line. That is for quick answers or turning in paperwork. Having an appointment is much more personalized attention that can cover a whole lot of information and help get the student on the right track. And do this before school starts – go as soon as that acceptance letter comes in the mail.
- Living on a basic budget
Once tuition is taken care of, it’s important to remember that there are other money issues to worry about. Some students work and pay some or all of their own bills. Budgeting for groceries and school supplies (and a little bit of fun) is important. There are usually workshops or “coaches” on campus that can help set up a budget, bank account, checkbook, and so on. Money can be complicated, and it’s okay to ask for help.