For many foster youth, pursuing postsecondary education can seem like an overwhelming goal. Recognizing that only 50% of youth in foster care graduate from high school by 18, youth in care face many barriers when it comes to applying to, attending, and succeeding in postsecondary education. Thankfully, there are many programs and opportunities to support young people interested in attending college or a vocational program.
As a CASA, you can help expose your youth to the numerous opportunities and alternative programs available to them. Keep in mind that your own educational background will likely influence your opinion of “best” options. Try to keep an open mind and help your student find the option that is truly in their best interest.
Please don't wait until graduation is right around the corner! It's never too early to get a head start on opportunities beyond high school.
Resources for College
COLLEGE PREP RESOURCES
SF ILSP: The San Francisco Independent Living Skills Program serves foster care and probation-involved youth ages 16-20 as they prepare for adulthood and independence, including education and employment. Please view this PowerPoint on services, eligibility, and referrals.
Higher Education Passport: A booklet full of helpful resources and planning checklists.
California College Pathways: Resources and support for CA foster youth attending or planning to attend college, including a youth-friendly version of the website and the following helpful resource guides:
Please consult with your SFCASA Case Supervisor about local college prep programs that could fit your youth's unique goals and academic history.
Foster Youth Support Programs
Many colleges have programs to specifically support current and former foster youth on their campus. Please visit this California College Pathways resource to identify support programs.
Local College Foster Youth Support Programs:
- City College of San Francisco Guardian Scholars
- San Francisco State University Guardian Scholars
- Skyline College Guardian Scholars
- Laney College b2b
- UC Berkeley Hope Scholars
Other On-Campus Support Programs
EOP/EOPS: Programs designed to support low-income and educationally disadvantaged communities on college campuses. The application process and resources vary by school.
Disabled Students Programs: Programs on college campuses designed to support youth with disabilities. If the youth had an IEP or 504 Plan in secondary school or feels they need to be assessed for a disability that affects learning, they should connect with this program to receive supports and accommodations.
- City College of San Francisco DSPS
- CSU Services for Students with Disabilities
- UC Services for Students with Disabilities
See the Financial Aid section of the Higher Education Passport for more information on these opportunities
FAFSA: The “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” is the application used to qualify most students for financial aid, completed annually
CA Dream Act Application: Application for financial aid for undocumented and nonresident students, completed annually
Please reach out to your SFCASA Case Supervisor if you need further support or resources. If you find new ones, let us know!
POSTSECONDARY EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS
Here are some options to consider when discussing postsecondary education and beyond.
Community colleges will accept any student with a high school diploma or equivalent. At a community college, a student can receive an Associate’s Degree, complete credits to transfer to a 4-year university, or earn certificates for careers. Visit California Community Colleges for community college options and application instructions.
Students are required to apply for admission to 4-year universities/colleges and can do so as a high school senior or transfer from a community college. At a college or university, students can earn a Bachelor's Degree and most offer graduate degree programs as well. 4-year universities can either be public, such as a UC or CSU, or can be a private school. While these schools are commonly referred to as "4-year" schools, it is important to know that many students take longer than 4 years to complete their Bachelor's Degree.
Some students may prefer to go straight into the workforce after high school. There are a number of industries with entry-level positions that require specific skills, rather than degrees. Before offering guidance, find out what your teen is interested in, check out some of the programs below, and do some research on your own. Several programs are offered for free and grants are available for others. Often, a job can be help a youth achieve financial and emotional independence.
- Jewish Vocational Services: Offers a variety of job search support services and vocational training programs to participants of any age or background
- Larkin Street Academy: A variety of employment and career services for homeless and at-risk youth
- San Francisco Conservation Corps: Hands-on job training, career counseling, and educational support (including HS Diploma or GED courses)
- Job Corps (Treasure Island campus): Job training and educational support (including HS Diploma or GED courses), housing is also offered
- SF LGBT Center: Offers resume services, networking opportunities, and career fairs to LGBT individuals
Make sure to consistently visit our Youth Opportunities page for information on internships, jobs, and training programs that can help prepare your foster youth for their life post high-school.
Discussing postsecondary education
Here are a number of age-appropriate ways to begin talking about and considering post-secondary education options.
Elementary School Students
Start asking your foster child what they want to do when they grow up. Help encourage enthusiasm about their future.
Tie skills they may be learning in school to real-life jobs (e.g. “You’re enjoying learning about shapes and angles? That’s awesome! Did you know that architects use everything you’re learning to build skyscrapers?”)
Middle School and High School Underclassmen
Take your student on a college tour. If you ask, many professors will let you sit in on part of an introductory psychology or sociology class. Eat in a dining hall, walk through a residence hall, or ask a student what they’re working on.
When your student expresses interest about a particular career, research and map out what it takes to achieve it (e.g. if they want to be a veterinarian, look at pre-vet and vet program requirements and admission standards).
Check out college preparatory options through the school and in your area. Programs are often available both during the year and over the summer.
High School Upperclassmen
Consider the full range of possibilities. Encourage your student to set up an appointment with a college or career counselor. See below for overview of many of the available options and steps to apply to various postsecondary programs.