The value of a college degree is undisputed. A 2010 report from the College Board estimates that, among full-time workers, high school graduates earned a median annual income of $33,800; workers with an associate’s degree, $42,000; and, workers with a bachelor’s degree, $55,700.

Assisting Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Choosing a College

The information included on this webpage was excerpted from Chapter 2 of College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers, available in its entirety at

unique considerations for homeless students

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Part 3 | Unique Considerations for Students Experiencing Homelessness
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While students experiencing homelessness are like other students in many ways, they often struggle with challenges related specifically to their homelessness. For instance, while most students will feel some apprehension about heading off to college, homeless students may feel added stress because they may not come from a school or family with a “college-going culture”. Many college-bound homeless students may be the first in their family to attend college; thus, the level of unknown is greater and can cause high levels of anxiety. While many students and their families will feel some level of financial burden due to college-related expenses, most of these students will be excited to head home for a visit when the dorms close for winter break; students experiencing homelessness may dread school breaks because they have to scramble to try to find a place to stay. And while many students wonder if they will be able to meet the admissions requirements of their top college, most unaccompanied homeless youth (UHY) face the admissions process without the support of an informed, caring adult.

Because of the unique circumstances of homeless students, the following additional considerations may need to be taken into account when discussing college options:

  • housing options, including during school breaks;
  • employment options, if needed;
  • transportation options, if needed; and
  • availability of no-cost tutoring, and academic and other student supports.

To be able to focus on school work and the other responsibilities they may have (working, parenting, etc.), students experiencing homelessness need to have a reliable and safe place to stay at night. Finding a college where their living arrangement will be stable and adequate is an important consideration when making a school choice. The ability to stay in a school dormitory is an appealing option for students experiencing homelessness in terms of stability and campus engagement; but dorms often close when schools go on extended break. This issue is something that should be considered and planned for, if need be.

Most homeless students will need to work while in college to be able to pay education-related and living expenses. Some students may receive on-campus employment opportunities through the Federal Work-Study program as part of their federal financial aid award. Other students may choose to work off campus with the hopes of earning more money. A smaller college in a small town may offer limited job opportunities off campus. In addition, transportation options often are limited in rural areas. A larger university or a university located in an urban area may offer more extensive job opportunities and the added convenience of public transportation. As such, access to employment and transportation may need to be considered when weighing college options.

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NAEHCY 2018 Conference
Anaheim, CA
October 27-30, 2018
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015
Homeless Students in ESEA Reauthorization
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