What is MAPS?

MAPS is a nonprofit organization with a mission to assist young adults with lived experience in California’s foster care system who are interested in advanced degrees. MAPS stands for Mentoring for Academic and Professional Success and the organization provides mentoring for the critical task of preparing the graduate school application. MAPS also presents classes and seminars for former foster youth who want to understand what kind of careers are available if they continue their education and how to become competitive applicants.

MAPS administrators and mentors are a geographically dispersed network of individuals primarily living in California. We work virtually over Zoom, presenting our classes and webinars and meeting with prospective students and mentees. We also coach through phone, text and email.

I’m an undergraduate with lived experience in foster care. How do I apply?

If you are ready to prepare a graduate school application please contact us at coordinators@maps-ca.org. If you would like to talk about your graduate school plans in general, we are also happy to chat. Our criteria are that you have lived experience in foster care in California, regardless of where you are currently living, or you are attending or attended college in California and are/were a member of an undergraduate support program. 

I completed my undergraduate degree 3 years ago and have been working steadily since that time. I want to go to graduate school to advance in my career. Can you help me decide on a degree and provide assistance with my application? 

We are happy to talk with you about your graduate school plans and brainstorm with you to decide a best path forward. If you are ready, we can assist you in preparing a competitive application. 

Is MAPS a 501(c)3 nonprofit?

MAPS is currently a fiscally sponsored project of the Marcus Foster Education Institute (MFEI) located in Oakland, California. MFEI is a 501(c)3 that operates as an umbrella organization for small entities like MAPS who don’t require a lot of administrative overhead.

Who are the mentors working with MAPS?

MAPS mentors are young professionals, all of whom have advanced degrees as well as lived experience in foster care. All of our mentors received assistance from the UC Davis Guardian Professions Program (GPP) and are interested in giving back. MAPS mentors come from a variety of disciplines and are employed in diverse fields. Our mentors are social workers, business analysts, professors, counselors, administrators and managers. Our professional affiliates are dentists, doctors, city planners and therapists.

Do I need to apply to get a mentor?

If you are ready to apply to a graduate program, please contact us through email: coordinators@maps-ca.org We will provide an application for you to fill out and schedule a short conversation.

I have some questions about how to apply to graduate school, but I’m not ready to submit an application yet. Is there someone I can talk with?

Please contact us at coordinators@maps-ca.org to set up a Zoom meeting or phone call. We are happy to answer your questions or engage in an exploratory conversation. If you have a question about a specific career path or program, we may be able to connect you for a conversation with one of our professional affiliates.

Does MAPS provide other services or programs besides mentoring?

MAPS presents a Zoom class in the Spring of each year that focuses on all the components of the graduate school and/or professional degree application, Getting Prepared for Graduate School. Understanding the components will help prospective students get a good idea of how they should be preparing for the future during their undergraduate years. The class exams the applications of successful applicants to understand strategies and essay structure.

We also present webinars about various career paths as well as a webinar on the financial aspects of planning for graduate school. Once a prospective student is ready to apply to graduate school and begin the application process, they are assigned a mentor to work with them throughout the process. MAPS also offers a weekly Zoom meet-up during the application period – generally October through January – where applicants can meet others who are also applying in that cycle. We answer common questions, talk about interviews, discuss funding and commiserate about writer’s block.

Does MAPS have funding to help with the costs of applying to graduate school?

We understand that applying to graduate programs is very expensive and it is one of our long-term goals to be able to assist with funding. At this point in time, MAPS does have some funding to help with the costs of applying to graduate programs, but it is minimal. We are fundraising to increase the amount we can offer our applicants. Our greatest value at the current time is our extensive expertise in knowing how to help you prepare and our understanding of academia and what professors and graduate school admissions committees are looking for. In this way, we can help you prepare a competitive application. Most of our applicants receive some scholarship support from the programs that offer them admission.

Can someone at MAPS review my personal statement and offer some advice?

Assisting prospective students with their personal statements, statements of purpose and resumes is part of the mentoring we provide. However, our goal is to ensure a student gains acceptance to a program of their choice and that often entails providing other types of coaching and mentoring beyond the digital application form that needs to be submitted. Often we advise students to get more work experience or network with professors or other graduate students. We suggest students go to information sessions and visit programs to talk with professors. We also advocate for our students or introduce them to influential university administrators using our networks at various campuses. Our way of working is really a partnership that includes a commitment to each of the prospective students we mentor. We expect students will be equally committed to us and their success. This is the long way of saying we are not just a program that reviews applications, although, on occasion, that is all we will need to do to assist a prospective student.

Do you help applicants with interviews for graduate programs?

Yes! A number of programs require interviews before you are accepted. Medical, dental and PsyD applicants are all interviewed as a part of the application review process, but there are also some PhD programs and Master’s programs that use them as well. We will provide you with materials and coaching and make sure you are well-prepared to ace any face-to-face interactions. 

The website uses different phrases to refer to children, youth and young adults who have been placed in foster care during their childhood or adolescence. Why?

This website generally uses the phrase ‘former foster youth’ as this term is part of our common vernacular and often used in policy documents and educational institutions. We continue to use the phrase to help website visitors understand who we are serving. However, we are well aware that many prospective students are no longer youth and have already outgrown this identity. We also understand that current academic literature uses the term ‘care leavers.’ Other terms that are used in contemporary discussions are ‘young adults with lived experience in foster care,’ and ‘foster care alumni.’ We use all these phrases interchangeably, often depending on sentence structure and what phrase fits most easily. Regardless of what terms are used, we know that those growing up in foster care have faced challenges in their educational lives that are different than their peers, yet they are quite capable of succeeding in advanced degree programs if given knowledgeable support.

I did not complete my undergraduate degree until I was forty and now I want to go to graduate school. Do you only provide services to young adults? 

If you have lived experience in foster care, then MAPS will provide help with your graduate school application. Educational obstacles are often part of lived experience in foster care and sometimes it takes quite a while to decide on a career direction. Age is not a factor in who we serve. 

I was never a part of the foster care system but I participated in the Guardian Scholars Program at my university. Can I still receive assistance from MAPS? 

Many undergraduate support programs at the UCs and CSUs include other at-risk students in their programs. These often include homeless youth, emancipated youth or others who do not have familial support. If you were a part of an undergraduate support program at a California university, you are eligible for our assistance. 

We help California’s former foster youth apply to graduate programs and professional schools by providing the knowledge each applicant needs to create a competitive application and succeed.

MAPS is a California non-profit