Higher Education

Opportunities after high school

What are my options for education after I graduate from high school or get 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 the program. Community colleges also offer vocational certificate programs in addition to academic programs.  There are also apprenticeship programs.

When you complete a two-year community college program you get an Associate’s Degree. Jobs requiring an Associate’s Degree include licensed practical nurse, police officer, radiologic technologist, 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 teacher, registered nurse, engineer or accountant.  Earning a Bachelor’s Degree also allows you to go on to graduate school, such as law school or medical school. Learn more: https://www.vawizard.org/wizard/students

Should I apply to a two-year or a four-year college?

Talk to your school guidance counselor, career counselor, social worker, and other adults. Some students start at a two-year college and go on to a four-year college: Virginia guarantees that motivated two-year college students may transfer to a four-year public college: http://www.vccs.edu/students/transfers/

▪  If you want to start your education at a four-year college straight out of high school, talk to your school guidance counselor about taking Advanced Placement classes and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a requirement for applying to most four-year colleges: https://www.collegeboard.org/.

▪  If you are interested in pursuing a four-year degree, you can start practicing the SAT while a sophomore or junior to improve your scores: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice/daily-practice-app

▪  Four-year colleges also typically require an essay as part of the application. Ask adults such as your guidance counselor, a teacher you trust, or your foster parents, for guidance on writing the essay.

What about vocational school?

If you don’t want a college degree, but seek career skills to get a good job, training programs at vocational schools or community colleges are an option. Some require a high school diploma or GED; some do not. Some focus on a specific skill, while others provide a variety of job training. This website lists many different career paths and programs: https://www.vawc.virginia.gov/vosnet/drills/program/progdrill.aspx

Help for current and former foster youth to attend college

The Community College Tuition Grant Program: provides money to pay for community college tuition and fees for students who were in foster care at the time they graduated from high school or received their GED.  It is also available to some students who were adopted out of foster care if certain circumstances exist: http://cdn.vccs.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/vatutiongrantflyer.pdf  or contact the financial aid office of your local community college or your social worker.

Education and Training Voucher (ETV): as a foster youth, former foster youth or youth adopted from foster care after ages 16  through 21 (extendible to age 23), you can apply for an ETV, valued at up to $5,000 (depending on availability of funding), regardless of whether you go to vocational school, community college or a four-year college.  ETVs can be used to pay for many things, including tuition, room and board, equipment, supplies, transportation and child care.  You can get more information about the ETV from your social worker, or see the website https://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/fc/independent.cgi

Great Expectations: a program at Virginia community colleges, for current and former foster youth, ages 16 through 24.  You can receive tutoring, help with college and financial aid applications, a community college student mentor, and other key things to help you prepare for your future: http://greatexpectations.vccs.edu/, or the Great Expectations main office, (804) 819-4950.

How much does it cost? How will I pay for it?

The cost of college is different for each school.  Community colleges and vocational programs 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.

How do I apply for financial aid to attend college?

Start looking into financial aid early—in your junior year of high school. Get help from your foster parents and your social worker as well as your school guidance counselor to help you fill out applications for financial aid. Your high school will have information on how to apply.

Types of Financial Aid:

Scholarships: scholarships may provide varying amounts of money to pay for tuition and other educational costs, and may be based on merit, background, need, specific talents and skills, or career goals. Some scholarships require you to write an essay. There are many websites that list scholarships, including the Virginia Department of Education: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/virginia_scholarships.

Grants: some types of grants, such as Pell grants, are federal programs and may be included in a package of financial aid once you apply using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Others may be private or state-based, such as the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant: http://www.schev.edu/docs/default-source/tuition-aid-section/financial-aid/vtagfactsheet.pdf.

Loans: the federal government provides student loans with a low interest rate. If you pay for your entire education with loans, you may have a hard time paying them back, but most people borrow at least some money for their education. Apply online using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). https://fafsa.ed.gov/

Work Study: When you apply to colleges, ask the financial aid office if they participate in the federal Work-study program. If so, your eligibility will be based on your FAFSA.

Completing the FAFSA

To complete an application for federal financial aid, you will need to have gathered certain 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 you were in foster care, to show you have independent status.

To fill out the federal financial aid form, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and click “start a new FAFSA.”  Answer “YES” to the question 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.

Special note about for-profit colleges

The majority of colleges are either public institutions or non-profit private schools. However, there are an increasing number of for-profit colleges which often advertise on television. While for-profit colleges may be right for some students, many people find they have taken out expensive loans to get a less-valuable education. Before applying to a for-profit college, be sure to thoroughly research the program, the costs, and what better or less expensive alternatives may be available. You can learn more here: http://www.onlinecolleges.net/for-students/for-profit-colleges-student-guide/

More college information: