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ready

$ For College

Step by step instructions for maximizing college resources

Figuring out how to pay for college, university, or technical school can seem overwhelming but it is completely possible! Below is a step by step guide to help you maximize the resources you can access to go to college. There are also people who can help! 

1. Get organized

  • Have an email address and check it on a regular basis. Most financial aid info is sent via email. Don’t have an email address? Set one up for free with Gmail, Yahoo, or another provider.  

  • Keep copies of your paperwork. Use a binder or folder to store and organize paper copies of all your paperwork.

2. Apply for financial aid.

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA).
  • Meet the financial aid deadlines at the colleges you're applying to—each college has their own deadlines.
  • Both the FAFSA and WASFA open on October 1.
  • If you were in foster care or a ward of the court for any length of time after turning 13, you can claim yourself as an “independent student.” Be sure to answer yes to the question on the FAFSA that asks you about your foster care status.  

  • Unsure if you were in foster care? Contact your Regional Education Liaison to find out. Ask them to fill out a “Dependent/ Ward of the Court Verification Letter." Be sure to print and keep several copies of this document! Your college may ask you for it.

  • When the FAFSA asks you how many people are in your household, remember this: if you are considered independent (for example, because you are in foster care) and have no children or spouse of your own, you are a family of one (yourself).

  • Are you in Extended Foster Care? The payments that you receive for being in Extended Foster Care DO NOT need to be included as income on your FAFSA. Click here for more info.  

  • Get help filling out the FAFSA or WASFA at free College Goal Washington events

  • It can feel overwhelming to do this on your own! Reach out to an Independent Living Service or SETuP provider around the state to help you along the way.  

  • There are also helpful staff members at colleges around the state who can walk you through the process. 

  • Be sure to list the schools you are interested in attending on your FAFSA. You can include up to 10 schools! These 67 schools in Washington can accept the aid you may be eligible for.

3. After you file for financial aid

  • Check your email for your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is the summary of everything you filled out on the FAFSA, and review it to make sure there are no mistakes. If you did make a mistake, you will need to submit a correction. WASFA filers do not receive a SAR.

  • Watch these helpful videos to learn about next steps. 
    After the FAFSA 
    How to Read Your Financial Aid Award Letter (coming soon) 

  • Keep an eye out for emails from the colleges you listed on your FAFSA or WASFA. Be sure to complete any additional steps they ask of you.

4. Find and apply for scholarships.

  • There are scholarships specifically for people who have been in foster care.
  • Take this scholarship eligibility quiz
  • Education Training Voucher: ETV is a national program that offers financial assistance to eligible youth with foster care experience. The maximum ETV award is $5,000 per year. 

  • Passport to College Promise Scholarship: Foster youth eligible for the Passport scholarship may receive:

  • Up to $4,500 per academic year.

    Specialized support from college staff and the College Success Foundation.

    Priority consideration for State Need Grant and State Work Study.

  • Governors’ Scholarship for Foster Youth: The Governors’ Scholarship is a program administered by the College Success Foundation. Recipients can receive between $2,000 and $4,000 per academic year.

  • College Bound Scholarship: The College Bound Scholarship is a state program administered by the Washington Student Achievement Council. All youth who have been in foster care anytime between grades 7-12 - or up to age 21 - and who have not graduated from high school are AUTOMATICALLY enrolled in the program. Call 888-535-0747 or email collegebound@wsac.wa.gov for more information.

  • Seattle University Fostering Scholars Program: Eligible students receive financial, academic, and personal support towards the completion of an undergraduate degree from Seattle University.

  • Casey Family Scholars: This program is funded by organizations, individuals, and families across the country. They help fund foster youths' postsecondary education.

  Check out these other scholarship opportunities:

5. Contact a supportive staff person at the school you plan to attend.

  • Let that person know if you are eligible for Passport, the College Bound Scholarship, or ETV.

  • Ask them what, if any, documentation is required to confirm your foster care status. However, you NEVER have to tell them WHY you were in foster care!