Higher Education

Opportunities after high school

What are my options for education after I graduate from high school or obtain my GED?

You can choose to go to a vocational school, a community college or a four year college or university. Vocational schools teach a particular trade or skill, such as computer technology or mechanic skills. The length of a vocational school program depends on what the program teaches. Community colleges have programs that last for two years. When you complete a community college program you get an Associate’s Degree. Examples of jobs you can get with an Associate’s Degree are licensed practical nurse or teacher’s assistant. When you complete a course of study at a four-year college or university, you get a Bachelor’s Degree. There are many types of jobs you can get with a Bachelor’s Degree, including jobs as a teacher, registered nurse, engineer or accountant. Earning a Bachelor’s Degree also allows you to go on to graduate school or professional school, such as law school or medical school.

How much does it cost to continue my education after high school? How will I pay for it?

The cost of college is different for each school. Community colleges usually cost less than four-year colleges and universities. Financial assistance is available to help you pay for community college or a four year college or university. For example, the Community College Tuition Grant Program provides money to pay for all tuition and fees for students who were in foster care when they graduated from high school or received their GED. It is also available to students who were adopted out of foster care system if certain other circumstances exist. For more information about the Community College Tuition Grant Program, go to: www.vccs.edu/Students/TuitionGrant/tabid/413/Default.aspx or contact the financial aid office of your local community college or your social worker.

In addition, as a foster youth, former foster youth or youth adopted from foster care after age 16, each year you can apply for an Education and Training Voucher (ETV), valued at $5,000, regardless of whether you go to vocational school, community college or a four-year college or university. ETV money can be used for many things, including tuition, room and board, equipment, supplies, transportation and child care. You can get more information about the ETV program from your social worker. Finally, you can apply for grants, scholarships and other financial assistance from the federal government. You can get more information about the financial support available to you at the Virginia Department of Social Services’ Independent Living website at www.dss.virginia.gov/family/fc/independent.cgi.

How do I apply for financial aid?

You should start looking into financial aid for vocational school or college early – in your junior year of high school. It is a good idea to get a mentor (such as your social worker or school guidance counselor) to help you fill out the application for financial aid. To complete an application for federal financial aid:

  1. Get a PIN (Personal Identification Number) at www.pin.ed.gov.
    • You will need a PIN to submit your application for federal financial aid.
  2. Have the necessary information and documents: social security number, any W-2s and other records of money you have earned, recent tax returns, bank statements and a letter from your social worker stating that you were in foster care to show you have independent status.
  3. Fill out the federal financial aid form. Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and click “filling out a FAFSA.” Answer “YES” to the FAFSA in step three: “Are both your parents deceased or are you (or were you until age 18) a ward of the court?” Answering “YES” allows you to skip the section on family income.

For more information, see “It’s My Life: Financial Aid” at www.casey.org/resources/publications/ItsMyLife/Education.htm.