By Haleigh Duncan
If you’ve been in foster care or wardship, and are thinking about the possibility of college, you know that the road ahead isn’t going to be easy. Enrolling in college involves paperwork, identity documentation you might not have on-hand, and lots (and lots) of money. It doesn’t help that the process doesn’t seem like it was designed with you in mind—forms requiring parent signatures and “quick” identification requests for documents you were never given or which may not exist—but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get it done, get it paid for, and slam dunk a degree. Most states offer major financial resources to help foster-involved young adults pursue their dreams through state college and training programs.
In fact, more than half of states in the U.S. have a tuition waiver program for youth who have been in foster care at a particular point in their lives—the specific requirements vary from state to state. That means that depending on the state you’re in, you may be eligible to have the entire cost of your college education eliminated. Every state has different rules for applying for the tuition waiver, learn about State-Level Tuition Assistance Programs for Foster Youth.
No matter where you live, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before applying for one of the waivers; it helps determine your eligibility and may provide you with additional grant or loan money for your education. For other scholarship options, help with finishing high school, and FAFSA tips, visit GetMyFuture, CareerOneStop’s new website for young adults.
Turning 18 may mean something different to you than it does for your peers, and it may mean that in the coming months, it’s going to be hard for you to focus on applying to college. Just remember that you have come a long way already, and your resilience is going to continue to be your most valuable resource. While the college enrollment process may represent a significant challenge to you, take a moment to congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come and how hard you’ve worked. When you’re done with that . . .go, and get your future.