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To find out about colleges in the city
or all over the
country, visit

If You're Still in
High School

Opportunities After
High School

Getting Your Diploma

Alternative Schools

GED Programs


Two-Year Public Colleges

4-Year Public Colleges

Private Colleges

Private Trade Schools

Armed Forces

College Counseling Services

Application Process


SAT Fees

Scholarships and Loans

Other Resources


College Housing



Whether it's getting your high school diploma, learning a trade, or getting an advanced degree, education can help you achieve your goals. This section has information on many ways to get an education.

If you haven't graduated from high school yet and are on track to a diploma—just keep going! However, if you've fallen behind or completely off track, there are still options for you. They include GED programs and alternative schools and programs.

Once you get your diploma, your options increase. They include 2-year colleges (often called community colleges), and 4-year colleges. There are schools where you can learn a trade. Some of these are public schools (the CUNY and SUNY systems) and some are private schools. We focus on public schools because they are less expensive. But if you get a good scholarship to a private school, it can be just as affordable.

The Armed Forces also offer ways to continue your education.

This section has information about all of those options. In fact, there are so many options that you may need help figuring out which one is best for you. Talk to older friends, mentors, and agency staff about your talents and your goals. They can give suggestions about which programs will help you achieve them. There are also agencies that specialize in giving advice and help with the SATs. We include information on them, too. And you can read stories by other teens in care to see what has worked for them.

Finally, these programs cost money. Fortunately, there are a lot of scholarships available to young people leaving foster care. We describe some of the main ones you may be eligible for. We also list some typical loans you may be eligible for, and explain the difference between a scholarship and a loan.

If You’re Still
in High School

Getting Your Diploma

Read how Angie Graduated.  

It should be simple to figure out what you need to do to get a high school diploma in New York City, but it’s not. First, there are two main kinds of diplomas, a local diploma and a Regents diploma. The Regents diploma is harder to get because you have to pass more tests with higher scores (and there’s even an Advanced Regents diploma). Also, the requirements for a diploma may be different depending on your program, such as general education, special education, career and technical education, or ELL (English Language Learner).

The best way to figure out what you need to do to get a diploma is talk with a counselor at your school and someone at your agency who is responsible for your educational success. Have them explain your situation and what you need to do next.

You can also find detailed info on graduation requirements at the Department of Education website. What follows are explanations of each of the many ways you can get that diploma.

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Alternative Schools

Transfer Schools

Behind in credits? Here's your second chance

A transfer school is a small, supportive high school designed to help young people like you finish their required courses and get a high school diploma.

Transfer schools like City-As-School and South Brooklyn Community HS have lots of support for students to make learning easier. Some have the Learning to Work program (see more on that below).

Transfer schools offer smaller classes, which can lead to close relationships with teachers, counselors and classmates. Their guidance counselors can help you make sure to take the classes you need, and you don't have to take classes for which you already have credits. The schools also have many outside learning opportunities, including student internships in New York City businesses and non-profits.

There are 22 transfer schools (some with more than one location) in the five boroughs. Different transfer schools are designed to help students in different ways. Some focus on literacy, math or English as a Second Language (ESL). If you're thinking of transferring to one, visit the schools you're interested in. Each school has a different feel.

Here’s a link to a list of more than 30 transfer schools: For contact info and admission requirements to various transfer schools in New York City, visit

Requirements: Students must have been enrolled in high school for at least one year. There are different age and credit requirements for each school.

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Young Adult Borough Centers

Can't go to school during the day?
You can go at night

If you're thinking about dropping out of high school because you can't attend classes during the day, this program is for you. Young Adult Borough Centers (YABCs) offer evening programs developed by the Department of Education.

The programs provide support for teens who feel the need to drop out because they're over-age for their grade or because they have daytime responsibilities like a job or caring for a child or other family member. The late afternoon and evening classes make it easier for these students to continue their studies.

Students attend classes up to five evenings per week. Although the programs are hosted at high schools around the city, students graduate with a diploma from their original high school once they've earned all their credits and passed the required exams.

Each YABC has a community-based organization that gives students academic support for those who need extra guidance in preparing for class exams or projects. Counseling is also available for those who face personal problems at home or school. Job and career development and college preparation are available at YABCs that have the Learning to Work Program.

Requirements: You must be 17½ to 21 years old, be enrolled (or become enrolled) in a New York City high school, have been in school at least four years, and have 17 or more high school credits to attend this program.

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Learning to Work

Get a job and your diploma at the same time

If you're on the verge of dropping out of high school or have already stopped going, and you need help developing work skills or getting a job, this program is for you. The Learning to Work program is a job readiness and career exploration program that can be found at certain Young Adult Borough Centers, transfer schools and GED programs. The Department of Education started it to give a boost to teens who are struggling in school and want to figure out what they can do after finishing high school.

In addition to working toward their diploma or GED, students who attend a Learning to Work program participate in activities to develop job skills, like workshops, seminars, lectures and field trips. The program also places students in paid and unpaid internships and helps them make connections to other employment opportunities.

Each Learning to Work program also works with a community-based organization that provides support, career and college counseling and helps with job placement and work skills training. Learning to Work is currently available at nine Young Adult Borough Centers, six transfer schools, and three GED programs.

Requirements: The requirements vary depending on whether you choose to participate in a Learning to Work program at a Young Adult Borough Center, a transfer school or a GED program. See requirements for these options above and below.

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GED Programs

About GED Programs

GED stands for General Educational Development (also called the General Equivalency Degree), and is accepted as equivalent to a high school diploma by many colleges and universities.

To get a GED, you have to pass the GED exams, which test your knowledge in five different areas: writing, social studies, science, reading and math. The tests are available in English, Spanish and French, and are free in New York state (and in many other states).

If you're under 21, remember you still have the option to get your regular high school diploma. But if you're 21 or older, the GED is your only option.

If you're between 16 and 19, you can take the GED if you have reached maximum compulsory school attendance age (after June 30 of the year you turn 16) and meet certain requirements.

If you're 19 or older, you can apply to take the tests through your local library or another organization (see test centers and dates in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island). But it's important to prepare for the tests, so it's recommended that you enroll in a preparation program.

how April Mojica got her GED

For more information, read “Easy Way Out?” about April Mojica’s struggle to pass the test…and how passing it was an important step in her educational career.

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Basic GED Requirements

You must be a New York state resident, but you don't need to be a U.S. citizen. You can't have graduated from high school or already earned a diploma.

You’re eligible to take the GED if you’re 19, OR

You’re at least 16 and fall into at least ONE of the following categories:

  • You're enrolled in an approved Alternative High School Equivalency Preparation (AHSEP) Program    
  • You're in the U.S. military or have been accepted into college

You’re 17 or 18 and fall into at least ONE of the following categories:

  • You haven't attended a full-time high school in the past 12 months    
  • You're a member of a class that has graduated without you
  • You're enrolled in an approved Alternative High School Equivalency Preparation (AHSEP) Program
  • You're in the U.S. military or have been accepted into college
  • You're in prison, a detention center or on parole
  • You're a member of Job Corps
  • You've been homeschooled

Find out more about eligibility requirements here:

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How to Find a Program

There are lots of GED programs in New York City, some with daytime classes and some with evening classes. Some programs are offered by the Department of Education, and that is a good place to start looking. Here’s a link to a GED page on the NYC Department of Education’s Website:

In addition, dozens of community-based programs, such as the DOOR, offer GED prep classes. The best way to find out about those programs is to ask your staff, or just walk into your local Settlement House or community agency and ask if they offer GED classes.

Tip: Plan ahead. You’re not going to get your GED overnight. You’ll probably have to contact an agency, find out when they offer classes, sign up for the classes, show up when they start, complete them, and then get a date to take your GED. It shouldn’t take you as long as the eight years it took April Mojica, but it will take planning, discipline, and time.

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List of GED Programs and Numbers


Adult & Continuing Education




Referral Centers for
High School Alternatives
For students under 21.
Sites are located throughout city.
Click here for more information.

Bronx Regional High School
1010 Reverend James A.
Polite Avenue
Room 436
Bronx, NY 10459

Marcy Avenue Complex
832 Marcy Avenue
Room 501A
Brooklyn, NY 11216

Alternative Learning Complex
269 West 35th Street (at 8th Ave.)
11th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Jamaica Learning Center
162-02 Hillside Ave
Room 109
Jamaica, NY 11432

Staten Island:
St. George
450 St. Marks Place
Staten Island, NY 10301



GED Programs in New York State by County and Borough

Channel Thirteen
Helplines in English
and Spanish
English: 212-560-2831
Español: 212-560-2081

GED Online Study Program

The GED Testing Service

GED Practice Tests

Literacy Assistance Center

New York State GED
Testing Office

Advocacy: Regular and Special Ed

Advocacy: Foster Care Youth Education Project

If you're not getting the services you need to succeed in school, the Youth Education Project at Advocates for Children can help. They provide free assistance to youth (and staff who work with them), ages 14-21. They may be able to help you:

• Learn about your rights
• Get answers to your questions
• Get assistance with your case, or represent you
• Get information about enrollment, transfers, suspensions, special education, and other school issues

They can also provide staff workshops and trainings on the educational rights of youth in care. For more information, contact Alice Rosenthal at 212-822-9539 or

Special Education Advocacy

The Legal Aid Society's Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project (EAP) provides special education advocacy for children birth to age 21. EAP helps students get the special services and support they need in order to succeed in school. EAP might be able to help you if:

• your school is not giving you the services and supports you need
• your child needs Early Intervention or preschool special education services
• you have questions about other education issues

For more information, contact Cara Chambers at 212-577-3342 or

After High School

Two-Year Public Colleges

Why enroll in a two-year college?
  • Because they’re a good way to get used to the intellectual and social demands of college.
  • Because they are a relatively inexpensive way to find out if college is for you. (If you go to a CUNY school the tuition is about $4,000 a year.)
  • Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) of up to $5,000 are available to pay for tuition and other education-related expenses. (To apply go to:
  • Because they offer lots of good programs that lead to jobs.
  • Because you’ll get an Associate’s degree, which is more valuable on the job market than a high school diploma or a GED.
  • Because you can transfer to a 4-year school if you decide you want a BA (a regular college diploma).
  • Community colleges accept everyone with a general high school diploma or GED.

Convinced? Good! Here are the colleges. Check out the websites of the schools that interest you for more information about each school and how to apply.

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CUNY Two-Year Colleges

Note: All CUNY colleges are in New York City

Borough of Manhattan
Community College (BMCC)

Admissions Office
Room S-300
199 Chambers St.
NY, NY 10007

Bronx Community College
W. 181st St. & University Ave.
Loew Hall, Rm. 224
Bronx, NY 10423

Hostos Community College
500 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10451

Community College

2001 Oriental Blvd., Rm. V-103
Brooklyn, NY 11235

LaGuardia Community College
31-10 Thomson Ave., Rm. M147
Long Island City, NY 11101

Community College

222-05 56th Ave.
Admin. Bldg., Rm. 210
Bayside, NY 11364

ASAP: Help for Community College Students

ASAP stands for Accelerated Study in Associate Programs. It is designed to help motivated community college students earn their degrees as quickly as possible, with a goal of graduating at least 50% of students within three years. ASAP provides tuition waivers, MetroCards, tutoring, and more.

Learn more about ASAP here.


SUNY Two-Year Colleges

There are 34 community (2-year) colleges in the SUNY system. Some are close to the city, such as Westchester Community College. Others are hundreds of miles away. Many do not have student housing, so you have to find your own place to stay, such as your own apartment or with family members who live in the area. If you want to get out of the city for college, and are not ready for a 4-year school, a community college might be the right thing for you.

Read how Tamecka succeeded at Sullivan County Community College.  

Because there are so many schools you must talk with a counselor about which ones might be best for you. Once you’ve identified a few schools, ask your counselor to find a way for you to visit the school so you can see first hand whether it's a place you could see yourself living in for two years. Most of the colleges are in small towns that have a much slower pace than New York City. Some people love that, and others hate it. For a complete list of schools, with links to their websites, go to:

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Four-Year Public Colleges

CUNY Four-Year Schools

Note: All CUNY colleges are in New York City

Baruch College
Admissions Office
One Bernard Baruch Way,
Box H-0720
New York, NY 10010-5585
(646) 312-1400
Fax: (646) 312-1363

Brooklyn College
Admissions Office
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210
(718) 951-5001
Fax: (718) 951-4506

City College
Admissions Office
Wille Administration Building, A-101
160 Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031
(212) 650-6977
Fax: (212) 650-6417

College of Staten Island
Admissions Office
2800 Victory Boulevard 2A-103
Staten Island, NY 10314
(718) 982-2010
Fax: (718) 982-2500

Hunter College
Admissions Office
695 Park Avenue, Rm 203, North Bldg
New York, NY 10065
(212) 772-4490
Fax: (212) 650-3472

John Jay College of
Criminal Justice
Admissions Office
445 West 59th Street, Rm 1100N
New York, NY 10019
(212) 564-6529
Fax: (212) 237-8777

Lehman College
Admissions Office
Shuster Hall, Room 161
250 Bedford Park Boulevard West
Bronx, NY 10468
(718) 960-8713
Fax: (718) 960-8712

Medgar Evers College
Admissions Office
1665 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225-2201
(718) 270-6024
Fax: (718) 270-6411

New York City College of Technology
Admissions Office
300 Jay Street Namm G17
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 260-5250
Fax: (718) 260-5504

Queens College
Admissions Office
65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Jefferson 117
Flushing, NY 11367-1597
(718) 997-5600
Fax: (718) 997-5617

York College
Admissions Office
Academic Core Bldg, Room 1B07
94-20 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard
Jamaica, NY 11451
(718) 262-2165
Fax: (718) 262-2601

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SUNY Four-Year Schools

There are more than 20 SUNY (State University of New York) colleges scattered around the state. A couple are within commuting distance of New York City, but most are upstate. You will have to live in a dorm or an apartment if you go away to one of these schools.

The best place to learn about SUNY schools is at It’s a huge website, so plan to spend some time there looking at your options. If possible, get a mentor or college counselor to look at it with you.

Major Colleges

Note: All SUNY colleges are in New York State, but outside of New York City

Admissions Office
Office of Undergraduate Admissions
University Hall 112
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222
(518) 442-5435
Fax: (518) 442-5383

Admissions Office
Box 6001
Binghamton , NY 13902-6001
(607) 777-2171
Fax: (607) 777-4445

Admissions Office
12 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1660
(716) 645-6900
(888) 822-3648
Fax: (716) 645-6411

Admissions Office
Laffin Hall
2350 Broadhollow Road
Farmingdale, NY 11735-1021
(631) 420-2200
(877) 432-7646
Fax: (631) 420-2633

SUNY-New Paltz
Admissions Office
100 Hawk Drive
New Paltz, NY 12561-2499
(845) 257-3200
Fax: (845) 257-3209

Admissions Office
229 Sheldon Hall
Oswego, NY 13126-3599
(315) 312-2250
Fax: (315) 312-3260

Admissions Office
735 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 251-6300
Fax: (914) 251-6314


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University Colleges
(also 4-year)

Note: All SUNY colleges are in New York State, but outside of New York City

SUNY College at Stony Brook
Undergraduate Admissions
118 Administration Building
Stony Brook, NY 11794-1901
(631) 632-6868
(800) 872-7869
Fax: (631) 632-9898

SUNY College at Brockport
Office of Undergraduate Admissions
350 New Campus Drive
Brockport , NY 14420-2915
(585) 395-2751
Fax: (585) 395-5452

SUNY College at Buffalo
Admissions Office
Moot Hall 110
1300 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
(716) 878-4017
Fax: (716) 878-6100

SUNY College at Cortland
Admissions Office
PO Box 2000
Cortland , NY 13045-0900
(607) 753-4711
Fax: (607) 753-5998

SUNY College at Fredonia
Admissions Office
178 Central Avenue
Fredonia, NY 14063
(716) 673-3251
(800) 252-1212
Fax: (716) 673-3249

SUNY College at Geneseo
Admissions Office
1 College Circle
Geneseo, NY 14454
(585) 245-5571
(866) 245-5211
Fax: (585) 245-5550

SUNY College at Old Westbury
Admissions Office
Box 307
Old Westbury, NY 11568-0307
(516) 876-3073
Fax: (516) 876-3307

SUNY College at Oneonta
Admissions Office
116 Alumni Hall
Oneonta, NY 13820
(607) 436-2524
(800) 786-9123
Fax: (607) 436-3074

SUNY College at Plattsburgh
Admissions Office
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(518) 564-2040
(888) 673-0012
Fax: (518) 564-2045

SUNY College at Potsdam
Admissions Office
44 Pierrepont Avenue
Potsdam, NY 13676
(315) 267-2180
(877) 768-7326
Fax: (315) 267-2163

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Admissions Office
106 Bray Hall
One Forestry Drive
Syracuse, NY 13210
(315) 470-6600
Fax: (315) 470-6933

SUNY Empire State College
Admissions Office
2 Union Avenue
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-4390
(518) 587-2100
(800) 847-3000
Fax: (518) 587-9759

SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome
Admissions Office
100 Seymour Road
Utica, NY 13502
(315) 792-7500
(866) 278-6948
Fax: (315) 792-7837

SUNY Maritime College
Admissions Office
6 Pennyfield Avenue
Throggs Neck, NY 10465
(718) 409-7221
(800) 654-1874
Fax: (718) 409-7465

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Private Colleges

There are dozens of 4-year private colleges in New York State (far more than we can include on this website). You can get a quality education at any one of them. So how do you choose?

  Read how Kizzy learned to love college in Minnesota.

First, you have to be able to get in. Second, you have to be able to afford them. A few private schools are very competitive (you need very good grades and test scores). However, many of them are not as competitive as the top CUNY and SUNY schools. They are almost always quite a bit more expensive than the CUNY and SUNY schools, so you’ll probably need a scholarship.

Click here to see how the costs of a private college compare to the costs of a CUNY community college and a SUNY 4-year college, plus information on financial aid.

Read how Lishoné got scholarships to pay for a private college.  

When choosing a private college, there are many things to consider, like whether the school you are attending has a good reputation in the areas of your interest; whether you wish to move far away or stay close to home; whether you want the range of opportunities of a big school or the one-on-one attention of a smaller one; how diverse the school is and whether this is important to you; and how much the school costs. One of the best ways to find out about schools is to talk to people about their experiences. You can also read the stories on this website, including Kizzy Charles-Guzman’s “Minnesota Merengue” about being one of the few people of color on a mainly White campus, and Lishone Bowsky’s story “The College of My Dreams…With No Money Down,” about paying for a private college.

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Private Trade Schools

You’ve probably seen ads for private trade schools on the subway which promise that you, too, can learn to make movies, fix cars or become a dental technician. They say (or imply): It’s easy! You can get your high school diploma at the same time! They offer financial aid! They’ll place you in a high paying job! And they have photos that make it look like young people just like you are succeeding at their school.  
What do we think of those claims? Based on our experience working with teens for more than 30 years, we have found most to be EXTREMELY MISLEADING. They play on your hopes and dreams (and your fears), but they do not reflect reality. (We hesitate to say that the ads lie, but the way many of these schools present themselves in their advertising and their admissions counseling is often very close to lying.)

In our experience, what the ads really mean is: The government will give you a loan to go to our school. We’ll help you get the loan, enroll you, take your money and then—good luck sucker! The classes and equipment that looked so good in the brochure? They don’t exist, or there’s so little equipment (for example, only three cameras for a filmmaking class with 25 students) that it’s impossible to learn. The teachers are all part-time, which means that they have no time for you.

Meanwhile, the school doesn’t have to pay back the loan, YOU DO.

Read "Scam U.," Marco's story about shady practices at for-profit colleges and trade schools.  

We have seen this situation over and over and over again. (Does that mean that no one ever graduated from a private trade school and got a job that paid well? No. But such happy results are all too rare.) Therefore, we cannot recommend enrolling in a private trade school. Find a nonprofit program that offers similar training. Find the program you want at a CUNY college. Do anything but borrow money for a private trade school education if you possibly can.

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The Armed Forces

For some young people in foster care the armed forces are the first step toward independence. There are four branches of the armed forces: the Army, the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force. Each branch has recruiters in practically every neighborhood, and recruiters often visit schools and subway stations, too, so they are not hard to find.

But what do the armed forces have to do with college? Well, as the recruiters will tell you, the armed forces have programs to help you pay for college. (In some cases they can even help you get a GED.)

Read about Jessica Baptiste's experience in the Air Force Jr. ROTC.  

An advantage of joining the armed forces is that it can be a first step toward independence. You’re not totally independent, because you are subject to military rule and you will live on a base, at least at first. But if you’ve lived in the system for much of your life, you’re probably used to following orders. (Of course, in the armed forces if you disobey they lock you up!) For some people, the limited and structured freedom of the armed forces is an important first step toward full, adult independence.

There are a couple of disadvantages to the armed forces. First, unlike other jobs, once you’re in you cannot just quit if you don’t like it. Second, like trade school recruiters, armed forces recruiters are known to exaggerate and mislead young people about the benefits they might get and about military life in general. One of the most common deceptions is to tell you that once you get in you can do whatever you “qualify” for. The key word here is “qualify.” Sure, you can become a pilot, or a mechanic, or an electronics expert…if you “qualify.” But remember, there are tens of thousands of other recruits trying to qualify for the same few good jobs. (For example, in the Air Force there are literally thousands of people who wash planes, fill their gas tanks, and hand out uniforms to the pilots for every person who is actually a pilot.) Most recruits do not get the good jobs, because it turns out that they do not “qualify.”

And those college benefits? Well, they’re real, but only if you take advantage of them by actually going to college. And that can be hard to fit around the demands of regular life in the armed services—like getting sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

To join or not to join? The decision is yours, but make it with your eyes open. If possible, do not rely on what the recruiter tells you. Talk to people in your neighborhood who have been in the armed forces. And know that if you really want to use the armed forces to further your education, it will take a lot of discipline.

For additional information about the Armed Forces:

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College Counseling Services

It’s difficult to figure out what college is right for you. You will need help. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a good college counselor at your high school or your agency. Use them!

If you don’t have people at your school or agency (or even if you do, but you need more attention or information) many community groups run their own college counseling programs. Here’s a list. Look for agencies near your home or school and call them about hours and eligibility.

Remember, the best time to begin the college search is in your junior year of high school. However, you can still get help in your senior year, or even after you’ve graduated.

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Booker T. Washington
Learning Center

325 E. 101st St.

Boys and Girls Harbor
1 E. 104th St.

Children’s Aid Society
105 E. 22nd St.

Covenant House
460 W. 41st St.

The Door
555 Broome St.

Eastside House Settlement
337 Alexander Ave.

Queens Community House
108-25 62nd Dr.
Forest Hills (Queens)

Options for College
877-OFC-INTL (632-4685)

Grand Street Settlement
80 Pitt St.

Henry Street Settlement
265 Henry St.

Hudson Guild
Education Center
447 W. 25th St.

Jacob Riis Settlement House
10-25 41st Ave.
Long Island City (Queens)

Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning
161-04 Jamaica Ave.
Jamaica (Queens)

Kingsbridge Community Center
College Directions Program
3101 Kingsbridge Terrace
718-884-0700 ext. 169 or 184


Union Settlement College Readiness Program
Washington Houses Community Center
1777 Third Ave. (98th St.)

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The Application Process

If you feel stressed when you think about the college application process, join the club. Though there’s nothing about the process you can’t handle, there are many steps you have to get through. First, if the college(s) you choose requires it, you have to take the SAT. Then there’s filling out the applications and writing the essay, which is your opportunity to tell the school who you really are and make yourself stand out from other applicants. You also have to apply for financial aid. This is the trickiest and most technical part of applying to college, so make sure you find someone to help you, like your school counselor or caseworker.

The most important thing is not to let fear stand in the way of getting started. Start early, don’t wait until the last minute to start filing out applications, and keep in mind there are always deadlines.

Because there are many steps to applying to college, it can be helpful to see the process broken down step by step. One of the best resources we’ve found is the New Visions/Citigroup College Planning Guide. If you’re applying to college, we recommend that you print this guide out and use it to help you plan your application process.

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The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)

The SAT is an exam most students take as part of the college application process. Some colleges do not require the SAT. If the colleges you hope to attend do not require it, then there’s no need to take the test. You’ll have to look in a college guide book, visit college websites, or talk to a guidance/college counselor to know if a college requires the SAT.

If you are planning to take the test there are a couple of things to know. First, you may be able to get a fee waiver so that you can take the test for free [see SAT Fee Waiver]. Even if a young person in care does not secure a fee waiver, s/he should not have to pay the SAT fee—his/her agency should cover that.

Second, you will do better on the test if you know what to expect. The entire exam takes 3 hours and 45 minutes, and focuses on testing your math and English skills. The exam includes an essay writing section. To get a feel of what the SATs are all about check out:

The programs listed below offer classes to help you prepare. Like any class, the more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it. To really benefit from a test prep class you’ll have to put in dozens of hours taking practice tests and working in the class to figure out how you can do better. Plan to take a class at least two or three months before you take the SAT.


Children’s Aid Society
Next Generation Center
1522 Southern Blvd.

Covenant House
460 W. 41st St.

The Door
555 Broome St.
212-941-9090 ext. 3285

Queens Community House
108-25 62nd Dr.
Forest Hills (Queens)

Options for College
877-OFC-INTL (632-4685)

Henry Street Settlement
265 Henry St.

Hudson Guild Center for Youth Development and Employment
441 W. 26th St.

Jacob Riis Settlement House
10-25 41st Ave.
Long Island City (Queens)

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SAT Fee Waivers

Unless they have suddenly come into a lot of money, teens in foster care shouldn’t have to pay to take the SATs. Students eligible for a free or reduced price lunch are eligible for an SAT Test fee waiver. You are eligible for a maximum of four waivers for SAT tests; two may be used for the SAT Reasoning Test, and two may be used for SAT Subject Tests. (You are allowed to take the SAT Reasoning Test more than once, and should consider doing so if you have reason to think you will significantly improve your score.)

You should speak to your college counselor to obtain a fee waiver card and mail it in with your test registration form. If you register online, you will have to enter your 6-digit school code, found on the bottom of the fee waiver card, which you should obtain from your school counselor. Again, ask your college counselor for help with this.

Application Fee Waivers

Believe it or not, it costs money to apply to college. However, you probably don’t have to pay, if you plan ahead. You should contact the admissions offices at all the colleges you plan to apply to. Tell them you’re in foster care and ask them how to get a “fee waiver” form. Get the form and fill it out and—like magic—you’ve saved yourself $30 to $90 for each school you apply to. A fee waiver itself costs nothing— it is just a form you fill out and send to the college along with your application.

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Scholarships and Loans

Most youth in care are eligible for scholarships and loans, including Pell grants given out by the federal government, TAP grants giving out by New York State, and Education & Training Vouchers (ETVs) given out by New York State's Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS). However, learning about scholarships, grants, and loans is complicated and so is applying for them. You definitely need to talk to someone at your school, your agency, or a community-based college counseling program to figure out the best package of scholarships, grants, and loans to pay for your education.

Meanwhile here are several key things you need to know:

1) Scholarships: These are the best because you don’t have to pay them back! For example, ETVs and Pell Grants are scholarships.

2) Work/Study Grants: Colleges often provide what are called “work-study” grants. You work a certain number of hours on the campus and in return you get a grant that you don’t have to pay back.

3) Loans: Loans should generally be avoided. Loans are easy to get, but they must be paid back. And you don’t want to be paying $300 a month on top of your rent and other expenses for the next 10 years! (That’s about what you’ll pay if you borrow just $25,000.) Avoid taking out loans except in a serious emergency, and keep them small. (For example, if you get scholarships and grants to cover $10,000 and your college costs are $12,000, consider taking a loan for the last $2,000.) Taking out a big loan to attend a private trade school is almost never a good idea.

Click here to see how the costs of a private college compare to the costs of a CUNY community college and a SUNY 4-year college, plus information on financial aid.

Meanwhile, to keep things simple, focus on these opportunities first: ETVs; New York State scholarships such as TAP; the federal Pell Grants; and Foster Care to Success. Information on these and more are below.

Education & Training Vouchers (ETVs)

Education and Training Vouchers offer up to $5000 a year (for up to five years) to foster youth so they can attend college or an accredited vocational or technical training program. ETVs are a great scholarship for youth in care, but you must apply before you turn age 21 and meet other criteria. Here are the rules. Read them closely.

To receive an ETV you must begin the application process. You must also meet these four criteria:

1. You must have a high school diploma or a GED.
2. You must be accepted into an approved college or training program.
3. You must be 18, 19 or 20 to apply for the first time. If you’re older or younger you are not eligible.
4. You have to be currently in care, or you have to have left care on or after your 16th birthday. (There’s one exception to this rule: If you were adopted, and the adoption was finalized after your 16th birthday, you are still eligible, even though you’re no longer in care.)
5. Your personal assets (bank account, car, home, etc.) must be worth less than $10,000.

To keep your ETV voucher you must maintain a 2.0 GPA (grade point average).

If you meet all of the above criteria, you can get an ETV scholarship until age 23. But you must file for your ETV and start receiving funds before you turn 21 (see #3 above).

ETV funds are approved by the U.S. Congress and awarded to New York State through its Chafee Independent Living Program. There is a limited amount of funds, so it is possible that annual grants could be less than $5,000 if the state runs short of money.

To apply online, first visit this page on applying from New York State. There is an online application as well as some forms that you should download, bring to your school and have faxed to Foster Care to Success, the organization that manages the ETV funds.

ETVs can be used to pay for:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Room and board
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Transportation
  • Repayment of student loans
  • Study abroad costs
  • School health insurance
  • Dependent care expenses
  • Repayment of student loans incurred during the current year, provided that tuition, books and other fees have already been paid
  • School-related expenses, once above priorities have been met

New York State Aid Programs
New York’s Higher Education Service Corporation (HESC) has lots of help for getting scholarships, loans, and grants. It includes easy instructions for completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and New York’s TAP (Tuition Assistance Program).

Pell Grants (and other Federal Scholarship and Loan Programs)
The website explains everything about the federal grants and loans. For example, there’s information on Pell Grants that provide more than $4,000 a year to eligible students.

There are lots of "specialty" scholarships, with money available for students who meet very particular specifications (like African-American males interested in architecture). Once you've filled out your FAFSA and applied for an ETV and state grants, do some additional scholarship research. If you know what schools you want to apply to and what you're interested in studying, that's a good start.

Call your schools and search online for professional associations related to your area of interest to see if they offer scholarships. For example, if you have a strong interest in a specific field like journalism or accounting, you are likely to find scholarships for students planning to study those fields.

You should also check out scholarship websites like fastweb, which match your profile to any applicable scholarships. Here are some other helpful websites:

Foster Care to Success
They offer scholarships solely to youth in foster care. This organization is dedicated to helping youth in foster care transition to adulthood.
This website provides information on various scholarship opportunities and on ways to gain maximum financial aid.
This website allows you to search for scholarships and compare colleges. You can also search for part-time jobs and internships.
This website offers information on scholarships, grants, and financial aid.

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation
A private, family foundation providing scholarships and grants to poor youth.

Warning: There are a lot of fraudulent companies that run scholarship scams. Don’t use any scholarship service that charges you money. All legitimate scholarship searches are free.

Sample Scholarships

Note: Winning a scholarship takes planning and discipline. Just gathering all of the forms and recommendations and completing them flawlessly can be a time-consuming chore. A word to the wise: Investigate scholarships far ahead of time so you can get your materials in order.

Here are some scholarships that you may want to consider. Be sure to check with the organization that is offering the scholarship to verify the current deadlines and requirements. They may have changed since we compiled this list.

New Yorkers for Children Guardian Scholars Program
(at Hunter College, John Jay College, and Kingsborough Community College)

Deadline: Late June

Guardian Scholars Program
The NYFC Guardian Scholars program is a comprehensive program for youth in foster care who are enrolled at Hunter College, John Jay College, or Kingsborough Community College. The Guardian Scholars program provides an academic scholarship that can be used towards tuition, room and board, textbooks, school supplies, and other living expenses. They also provide the essential financial, academic, and emotional support for Scholars throughout their entire college experience.

Eligibility Requirements
To apply, you must:

  • Be a highly motivated student currently or formerly in foster care in New York City
  • If formerly in foster care, must have been in care on or after 16th birthday
  • Currently enrolled in or accepted to Hunter, John Jay, or  Kingsborough Community College
  • Be an incoming freshman, sophomore, or first semester junior

If you are selected you must meet the following criteria to keep the scholarship: a GPA of 2.5 or higher; complete a minimum of 12 credits per semester; work, intern, or volunteer between 10 and 20 hours per week; and participate fully in all aspects of the program.

This is an extraordinary opportunity. If you plan to apply you will need to complete an application that includes an essay, letter of recommendation, your high school transcript and your SAT or ACT scores. (Warning: This is not something you can pull together the last minute! Plan ahead if you plan to apply.)

For more information, contact:
Lindsay Adamski
Program Manager
New Yorkers for Children

New Yorkers for Children Spirit Award

Deadline: Every year, around June 15

The New Yorkers For Children Spirit Award will honor a young person in foster care who is attending a two- or four-year college or university and has demonstrated leadership skills. The winner must also be willing to represent the opinions of youth in foster care as a representative to the Board of Directors of New Yorkers for Children. This is a one time, $10,000 educational scholarship.

For more information, contact:
Lindsay Adamski
Program Manager
New Yorkers for Children

Gates Millennium Scholarship

Deadline: Usually around January 1.

Students are eligible to be considered for a GMS scholarship if they:
• Are African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American
• Are a citizen/legal permanent resident or national of the United States
• Have attained a cumulative GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale (unweighted) or have earned a GED
• Will be enrolling for the first time at a U.S. accredited college or university as a full-time, degree-seeking, first-year student
• Have demonstrated leadership abilities through participation in community service, extracurricular or other activities
• Meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria; and
• Submit the application by the deadline, which includes three forms:
—Nominee Personal Information Form completed by the student
—Nominator Form completed by an educator familiar with the student’s academic record
—Recommender Form completed by a person familiar with the
student’s leadership and community service

Find the application and more information here:

The John Seita Scholarship
Kalamazoo may be a funny name for a town, but the Seita scholarship is no joke. It covers full academic tuition at Western Michigan University (which is in Kalamazoo, Michigan). Winners of this scholarship are also enrolled in the Seita Scholars Program, which provides special classes and support. For more information, click here:

Adopted After 13? What You Need to Know About Financial Aid

A new federal law has made it possible for teens in foster care to be adopted without losing access to college financial aid. Under this law (part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act), youth who are adopted from foster care at any point after their 13th birthday will not have to include their adoptive parents' income in the formula that determines eligibility for financial aid. Only your income will be included (and it’s probably pretty low). Unless you’re one of those teens who is already a millionaire, this means you’ll probably be eligible for the maximum federal financial aid.

Youth who were adopted after age 13 will need to indicate their status as an “independent student” when they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for college financial aid. You can learn about the FAFSA and how to complete it at this College Board link: How to Complete the FAFSA.

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Other Resources

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the financial aid application form you will need to apply for federal and state student grants, work-study, and loans. While the FAFSA may seem lengthy and complex, there are many free resources, online and offline, to help you navigate the application process. Click here to get started.

This 32-page booklet walks you through every step of the FAFSA:

The College Board Website
Info on U.S. colleges, SATs and SAT Prep, scholarships, financial aid, and the admissions process

College Navigator
Info on nearly 7,000 U.S. colleges and universities

The College Scholarships, Colleges, and Online Degrees Website
Info on U.S. colleges and universities, free scholarship and financial aid searches, and SAT and ACT test preparation tips

Hobson’s College View
Info on standardized tests, a Guide to Historically Black Colleges & Universities, a Guide to Christian Colleges, and online college applications

Financial Aid, College Scholarships and Student Loans

Free Application for Federal Student Aid – US Department of Education
Submit financial aid applications online

ACT, Inc.: Education/Career Planning and Workforce Development
The organization responsible for the American College Test, an alternative to the SAT that is accepted by some colleges

CollegeNET – Online Applications and Free Financial Aid Search
Guide to colleges, universities, graduate programs, and admissions

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College Housing

If you go away to college you can live in a dorm or in an off-campus apartment, which can be a lot cheaper than the city. Also, many colleges have bulletin boards or housing offices that list apartments for rent or people looking for roommates.

What housing does ACS pay for if you’re in college? If you’re going to college outside of the city and you’re age 18 to 21 and you have not signed yourself out of care, the room and board payment that ACS would have sent to your foster parent or group home is sent to your college instead to cover room and board in your dorm. This can be a complicated issue (where do you stay on vacations, for example?). If you will be attending college outside of the city (congratulations!), be sure to talk with your foster parents and your caseworker to get all of the arrangements straight before you head off to school.

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