Applying To College As An Undocumented Student

An estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. and, according to the Urban Institute and the College Board, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year. Starting the college process can be an incredibly stressful experience, and for those who do not have the privileges and benefits of legal status, the college process can be even more anxiety inducing.

When the DREAM Act, which would have opened up pathways to citizenship for undocumented college students who fulfilled certain requirements, failed to pass in the Senate in 2010, it was a crushing blow for many undocumented youth. Despite this setback, many young students and activists continue fighting for their rights to higher education.

It is important to know that there is no federal or state law that bars undocumented students from enrolling in U.S colleges and universities, nor is there a law that requires proof of citizenship for admittance. However, while there are no laws governing the admittance of undocumented students into college, institutional policies vary from school to school. Unfortunately, some colleges do refuse admission to students without documentation. While many colleges accept students regardless of legal status, they often treat undocumented students as international students, charging them out-of-state tuition.

Because undocumented students are not allowed to receive any type of federally funded student aid, including loans, grants, and scholarships, the cost of college is often prohibitively high. While this can be a major roadblock for many students, some private foundations offer scholarships that do not require the recipients to be legal residents of the U.S., and some private colleges and universities do offer scholarships and other aid to undocumented students.

Many people have been tirelessly advocating for undocumented youth and immigration reform. If you have questions or concerns about navigating the college process as an undocumented student, I would direct you to the following sources, many of which include lists of scholarships and grants available to undocumented students, as well as lists of schools that offer in-state tuition to students regardless of their legal status.

  • The Repository of Resources for Undocumented Students is a recently published resource guide by the College Board. This guide, which will be constantly updated as policies change, also provides a breakdown of the states that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. The states included are: California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • is an extensive, informational website that provides pertinent information on all fifty states, is, according to their website, “a multicultural, migrant youth-led, social media hub for the movement to pass the DREAM Act and pursue the enactment of other forms of legislation that aim to mend the broken immigration system.”
  •  Educators for Fair Consideration: According to their mission statement, Educators for Fair Consideration, “work to help undocumented students achieve their academic and career goals and actively contribute to society.” This website offers student, educator, and parent resources as well as scholarship lists and student guides.
  • Dreamers Adrift is a creative project created by and about undocumented youth. This website includes vlogs, art, prose, and poetry.

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Brianna Low

Brianna Low

Brianna Low is a rising senior at DePaul University pursuing a double major in English and Spanish. Brianna enjoys reading, writing, and traveling. She currently works for DePaul's Art Department as a receptionist and hopes to one day work in a library. Brianna is happiest when surrounded by books.
Brianna Low

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