Leveraging Your Story and Utilizing Your Resources

So I received some wonderful questions on my profile page about how I earned my college degree and I thought I would share it with you all so that if any of you have the same questions, maybe this can help! :D

I applied to about 6 schools that offered a teaching program, (because that's what I wanted to do originally). I also got most of my application fees waived because I was a foster youth. Once I chose the school that offered me the most financial aid, I took classes that interested me and chose Psychology as my major to earn my BA in.

The essay part of your application is worth more than your SAT/ACT scores and your GPA. That's where you can tell them all about who you are and why you want to study at college. I was the first person in my family to go to college and I don't think my birth parents even graduated high school. I wrote my essay, sharing my story while focusing it on how important attending college was for me and what I want to do in the future. Don't underestimate the power of your story. It is your strongest gift and asset!

Just so you know, being in foster care definitely has it's perks regarding college education. I aged out of the foster care system at 18 and therefore, was a ward of the state when I applied to colleges. For every college, you have to fill out a FAFSA (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/) which determines your financial need based on your income. Being a foster kid, I only had to report the income I made my senior year of high school, which wasn't much. So, my school analyzed it and gave me almost a full ride in scholarships and grants (which you don't have to pay back). I only had to take out a few loans my senior year of college to pay for rent. But there are also programs that can help with housing for former foster youth, depending on your state.

There are also many scholarships offered to only foster or adoptive youth. Three that helped me tremendously are:
Horatio Alger Association (https://www.horatioalger.org/scholarships/index.cfm), which gave me $10,000 over 4 years, but I think the amount is more now! :)
Orphan Foundation of America (http://orphan.org/index.php?id=30), which also provides you a mentor to correspond with.
and of course there is Fastweb.com which searches for scholarships that only fit your profile.

And there are also many ways of getting a higher education. If you can't afford or aren't ready for the transition of going to a big university, there is always the option of community college or vocational school. They are usually cheaper and you can get your general mandatory classes out of the way and then transfer to a university when you are ready. They are also good for commuting if you live close.

And as far as traveling goes, there are many chances for college students to travel while in school -- it's called Studying Abroad. Most universities have studying abroad programs and you can go for a semester, year or even summer. There's also financial aid with that which you would work out with your school.

My mentor also participated in Semester at Sea (http://www.semesteratsea.org/), which is awesome because you travel on a ship and go to many countries around the world during a semester. I really wish I could have done that, but my school didn't collaborate with that organization.

I hope this helps all of you about to age out and want to go to college, but definitely if you have any more questions, let me know. My email is [email protected]. I wish you all the luck in the world!

There is no reason for you not to be able to go to college and achieve your dreams just because you are in foster care and have a "messy past". If that's really what you want to do, then go for it!

Kita Anderson
2009 California All-Star