Journal Title

Journal of College Student Development

Publication Date



Young people transitioning from foster care to college experience unique identities and circumstances that make being successful in college especially challenging. We used qualitative survey data from 248 college graduates who were formerly in foster care to explore the strengths, challenges, and supports they experienced while in college that affected their success. A qualitative content analysis of responses to 3 open-ended survey questions revealed 7 global themes related to participants’ college experiences: positive self, overcoming, interpersonal relationships, finances and logistics, academic orientation, physical and mental health, and independent living skills. Subordinate themes are identified and participant quotes are provided to help illuminate participants’ postsecondary experiences. A primary goal for this study is to increase awareness of this hidden population on college campuses and provide a better understanding of their unique circumstances and needs. This information can be used by colleges and advocates to improve support services for these youth.


Educational evaluation; Education, Higher; Postsecondary education; Universities and colleges--Alumni and alumnae

Publication Information

Journal of College Student Development, 2016, Volume 57, Issue 3, 263-279.

© 2016 Johns Hopkins University Press

Archived version is the final published version.





Document Type

Journal Article