Postsecondary Education


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Community colleges 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 certain 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 a transfer from a community college. 4-year universities are either public (UCs or CSUs), or private (Stanford, St. Mary’s, etc).

Vocational programS

Some students may prefer to go straight into the workforce after high school. Jobs can help a youth achieve financial and emotional independence.  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 research on your own.  Several programs are offered for free and grants are available for others. 

  • Jewish Vocational Services: Offers a variety of job search support services and vocational training programs to participants of any age or background

  • TechSF Training: Various organizations in the city offer tech training programs through San Francisco's Office of Economic and Workforce Development. You can also find a basic list of the programs here.

  • 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

Ask 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 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 in a particular career, research and map out what is required 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.

Resources for College


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. Watch this PowerPoint to learn more about ILSP services, eligibility, and referrals.

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:

CA Community College Foster Youth Resource Guide + Enrollment Checklist

CSU Foster Youth Resource Guide + Enrollment Checklist

UC Foster Youth Resource Guide + Enrollment Checklist

Higher Education Passport: A booklet full of helpful resources and planning checklists.

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

Each public college (community and four-year) has a campus support program for Foster Youth. For example, Community College of San Francisco has the Guardian Scholars Program, UC Berkeley has the Berkeley Hope Scholars. Find the statewide list of programs here. Programs vary, but in general provide support around the following:

  • Books & supply grants

  • Enrollment

  • Career guidance

  • Child care & transportation assistance

  • Counseling

  • Financial literacy & independent living skills support

  • Health service referrals

  • Housing assistance

  • Mental health services

  • Service coordination

  • Transfer services

  • Tutoring

SFCASA recommends connecting with the program at the campus your youth is interested in attending at every stage of the process; are they potentially interested in college? Reach out and schedule a visit and tour to learn about programs offered! Has the youth already decided on a school and needs help with enrollment or financial aid? Connect them with their respective support program!

Financial Aid

Current and former foster youth are eligible for:

  1. College application and enrollment fee waivers

  2. Federal Work-Study

  3. The maximum federal aid amount ($5,000)

  4. Federal Pell Grants

  5. Cal Grants

  6. Chafee Grants (foster youth only!)

  7. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

  8. John Burton Scholars Backpack to Success Scholarship

  9. ILSP

    1. If a youth has unmet need after applying for financial aid, they are eligible to receive scholarships from their local ISLP program. Find the SF-ILSP supplemental grant application here.

The first step to access any of the above resources is to fill out the FAFSA application. FAFSA must be completed annually.

Undocumented and nonresident students are not eligible for FAFSA funds, though they may apply annually for the CA Dream Act.

For more information, see the Financial Aid section of the Higher Education Passport or view the SFCASA Financial Aid Webinar.

Housing & Enrollment Rights

Current and former foster youth get priority housing and priority enrollment on college campuses.

Housing: California law (AB 1393) requires UCs and CSUs to give foster youth priority for on-campus housing.  California community colleges are not required to give priority to foster youth, but many do—check with your school!  In addition, CSUs that have student housing open during school breaks (or on a year-round basis) are required to give first priority to current and former foster youth.  UCs are only required to do so for foster youth who are otherwise eligible for a particular campus housing facility.

Enrollment: California law (AB194) requires that community colleges and CSUs give priority course enrollment to foster youth.  Make sure to be in touch with the foster youth support program to ensure that priority is properly awarded.  Priority enrollment is not required at UCs, but many of them also offer priority enrollment as well—just ask!

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.