When do I start planning for college?
As early as freshman year in high school, you will want to attend college fairs, career centers, and talk to your guidance counselor about what jobs interest you and what type of education you need for those jobs. Before attending a college, you must apply, get accepted and register to attend. Being in foster care is not a barrier to attending college. The first thing you should do is meet with your school’s guidance counselor. Tell your school counselor that you want help applying for college. Look at different schools and pick the colleges that look best for you.
You will also need to get ready (study and sign up) for the SAT or ACT. These are tests that you usually have to take when applying to college, but are not required for community college. After you’ve taken the SAT or ACT, you can fill out college applications with the help of your guidance counselor. Your school counselor can also help you make a step-by-step plan, to keep you organized through the process. Your DCF outreach worker is also available to give you help with college and vocational training questions.
How do I apply for college?
By the beginning of the 11th grade, you should be talking with your school guidance counselor about applying to college. You can fill out college applications on-line. Get the help of your guidance counselor. Your school counselor can also help you make a step-by-step plan, to keep you organized through the process. Be sure to pay attention to the due dates on your college applications. An Adolescent Outreach Worker or your social worker can help you with college and vocational training questions.
How do I get money to go to college?
DCF has created the College Scholarship Guide, a book listing many of the scholarships (money for college) available to you. Contact your social worker, Adolescent Outreach Worker, or DCF at (617) 748-2232 and ask them for a copy. They can also help you fill out any forms and figure out if you are eligible for any loans, grants, or other programs. There are other financial support programs specifically for youth in foster care listed at http://www.mass.edu/osfa/programs/dcfadopted.asp. Look under the Adolescent Services tab and click on Tuition and Education Assistance.
You may be able to get money for college by filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA). Other programs include the Foster Child Grant Program and the Education and Training Voucher Program. You may also be eligible for a tuition waiver, which means you wouldn’t have to pay tuition to attend a community college or state university in Massachusetts. Look up the Foster Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program at http://www.mass.edu/osfa/programs/dcffoster.asp for more information about free undergraduate tuition and fees at the in-state rate at any one of the 29 state and community colleges and universities in Massachusetts. This program is for current or former foster children placed in DCF custody and remaining in custody through age 18 for at least six months immediately prior to age 18; or youth who have been in DCF custody and whose guardianship was sponsored by DCF. You may use the tuition waiver up to age 25. Call 617-748-2232 for more information. You can also find information about financial aid programs for Massachusetts residents. These are programs that give money for young people to go to college in the state where they live. To learn more about this, check out the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance. Their phone number is 617-391-6070 and website is http://www.mass.edu/osfa/home/home.asp
What if I want to attend college outside of Massachusetts?
If you want to go out of state, explore other funding with your social worker and school guidance counselor. The William Warren Scholarship Program provides competitive scholarships for educational and vocational programs if you are under age 25 and were in the care or custody of DCF for a minimum of one year.
Contact the financial aid office at the colleges that interest you for more ideas on how to get money for that college including scholarships and fees waived.
If I get money for college, can I just show up to college and start?
No, first you need to apply, get accepted, and register to attend. The application and registration processes require many documents and forms, so be sure to pay attention to their due dates.
Know the names and phone numbers of the people who work at the admissions office or financial aid office at the college. They can help you with your questions about the forms or any other things you may need. If you are unsure about anything, always ask someone, and don’t worry about who it is. If they don’t know the answer, they can point you to someone who does.
What if I don’t want to go to college? Can I do job training or a vocational program?
Yes! You may qualify for financial aid through one or more of the DCF programs and/or the federal government through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Assistance.) Your job training and /or vocational program can be paid for by DCF - until you turn 22 years old if you sign on with DCF. Talk to your social worker, lawyer, or the Adolescent Outreach Worker at your DCF office for more information about these programs. Learn more about signing on with DCF in “TURNING 18 ”