From “Group Home Child” to College Success

Submitted by: JL Reed


Going off to college for the first time can be a scary experience for anyone, especially for a foster child.  We don’t have the support of a parent, and a lot of times we feel as if we’re along in the world.

When I first started classes, things seemed fine.  I had six classes, and the workload was about right.  But after a little while, I met a guy and started spending lots of time with him, skipping classes and not studying.  I felt I had all the time in the world to pull my grades up.  So I slowed down, and started missing classes that I didn’t like.  As the semester progressed, I started having trouble, and my grades dropped tremendously in history and math.


I found myself using the excuse of being in foster care every time I missed a class or failed an exam.  A lot of times I would say to myself, “Oh, I’m in a group home.  Who cares if I go to class or not, or if I fail an exam, or even if I pass one?”


My self-esteem was very low during my first semester.  I sometimes just gave up and didn’t care at all.  As a result, I completed my first semester with a 1.0 grade point average and placed on academic probation.


I felt nobody cared for me, and it showed.  I kept making the mistake of comparing my life to that of students who had parents calling often and coming to visit them.  I wanted so badly to have someone care about me like that.  I felt neglected, not to mention jealous.


Just before the end of first semester, I realized that I had wasted time feeling sorry for myself and had to do something about it.  I realized that time was passing me by, and nobody was going to care for me until I cared for myself.  I was so wrapped up in worrying about having people do things for me and care for me, that I wasn’t taking the time to care for myself at all.


Tired of Excuses


I got tired of using my foster-care experience as an excuse.  I was tired of failing my exams.  I was tired of crying.  At the same time, I also noticed that some of the people I envied weren’t doing so well with their classes either.


I finally realized I wasn’t failing my classes because I was in foster care.  I was failing because I had been paying too much attention to what people thought of me and how they treated me, and too little attention to my schoolwork.  I had to accept the fact that I was in foster care and move on.  It wasn’t being in a group home that was holding me back: it was me holding myself back.


In my second semester my grade point average shot up to 3.25.  I was studying night and day, especially in subject like history, which I always had problems with.  I went to a tutor who worked with me, and I also found peer tutors (fellow college students who were good in a particular subject) to help me.  In exchange, I’d type for them or make them dinner.


Help from a Counselor


My next step was to get counseling.  I had a nice female counselor who talked to me about school, my group home, and other things on my mind.  At the end of the sessions, she would give me suggestions on how to deal with my problems.  It helped me realize that while I couldn’t have the family relationships I wanted so badly, I could be thankful for the people who were taking time to help me in any way they could.


I also got a part-time job to make some extra money to pay for whatever the group home couldn’t help me with.  I was even able to put some money in the bank.  Basically, I tried not to depend on the system so much.


Strength from Foster Care


Through counseling, I realized that in some ways being a foster care child had its advantages for me.  For example, living in a group home was a big help in adjusting to college life; I had already learned how to live with many different personalities and attitudes.  Also, I had already learned a sense of independence.  Just like in a group home, when you’re in college, you have to do things for yourself and make sure things get done on time.


Most importantly, I learned that in order for anything to change, I first had to care about myself.  Then I’d be able to care about the situation and do what I needed to do.  Now my overall grade point average is 3.0, which is great compared to how things were looking during my first semester.  And I’m looking forward to finishing my last semester.


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