The road to college is windy for undocumented students, and no one expects you to go it alone. Count on your family, friends, guidance counselors, legal representatives, and nearby advocacy groups. You may also want to meet other students who have backgrounds similar to yours.
Campus Support Systems
Getting to college is just one of your goals; another is to stay there. Make the most of your time and build strong connections with other students who understand or want to understand your situation. The following support groups also provide opportunities to advocate against the discrimination of immigrants and in favor of immigration reform.
- United We Dream, the largest youth-led organization for immigrant rights, has over 400,000 members and 53 local groups in 26 states. Join or contact United We Dream to learn about chapters or allied support groups near you.
- MEChA, or Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, is a student organization that celebrates the education, cultures, and histories of Chicano students, but it’s open to everyone. Members are involved with a number of campaigns, including Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. There are chapters at schools across the country.
- Other school clubs: If your school does not have a MEChA chapter, or if you are an undocumented student from outside of the Americas, check the extracurricular groups and activities that are sponsored by your college. UCLA provides a link to resources for undocumented students at schools all across California.
- An allied support group: If your college doesn’t offer a support group specifically for undocumented students, check into other clubs that are resources for minority students and international students. You can also consider starting your own group or partnering with the campus diversity center to check out your options off campus.
You aren’t alone in your college search. A multitude of community groups and organizations offer guidance and support. You often have parents, siblings, friends, or teachers accompanying you as you search for colleges, apply to colleges, and continue your education. If you or they need additional information, there are internet resources that pave the way for undocumented students en route to college. Involve them in your college search and check out their guidebooks.
- Life After College: A Guide for Undocumented Students was compiled by Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) to help undocumented college students visualize their futures after graduation. It provides information on graduate school, professional school, internships, earning a living, and receiving emotional support. While it focuses on college graduates, some of the information is also useful to current high schoolers and undergraduates without documents.
- How to Support Undocumented Students: Advice for Parents, released by E4FC, explains the U.S. college system and gives parents the tools to help their children get accepted to college.
- Resource Guide: Supporting Undocumented Youth was released by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015 to help counselors and teachers prepare undocumented students for success in secondary and postsecondary settings. As a student, you may want to share it with your college counselor or refer to it yourself. You will find a list of scholarships for undocumented students, a state-specific list of immigration and tuition policies, and financial aid information.
You might start to doubt yourself or begin to see your college dreams as unrealistic. When you do, it’s a great time to remind yourself why you aspire to go to college. Every student has different reasons for pursuing higher education, and you might have some that are specific to your status as a student without authorized immigration documents. They could include:
- Devoting time to your passions: College is a two- to four-year chance to engage with your interests and develop your talents. Universities and colleges offer a wealth of resources, including experienced professors, state-of-the-art facilities, extracurricular activities, and student support systems. You can customize your education more so than in high school. Explore new subjects or delve into familiar ones.
- Growing as a person: As an undocumented student, you might have taken on more responsibility in high school than most of your peers did. Now is your chance to do more self-discovery. Meet new friends, try new things, and get to know yourself outside of the classroom.
Invest in yourself. Work hard in high school and college so that you can reap the rewards later. Tomorrow’s payoff may be in salary or opportunity.
- Opening more doors after graduation: To advance in some fields, having a high school education isn’t sufficient. U.S. employers commonly require that job candidates have an undergraduate and sometimes a master’s degree. As an undocumented immigrant, you are not eligible to work in the country without the proper documents. However, if you meet all educational requirements for a certain position, an employer might sponsor you for a temporary visa to work and stay in the United States legally. Employer sponsorship is rare, so you shouldn’t count on it. Instead, consider your college years as a way to build your own skill set. With a degree, you have more options to find a career and stick with it.
- Taking advantage of fresh opportunities: Many undocumented students are first-generation college students who strive to further their education as a way to appreciate their parents’ sacrifices. If this describes you, going to college is one way to make the most out of the opportunities you have been given.
- Setting an example: Undocumented students, often the firsts in their families to attend U.S. colleges, may want to act as role models for younger siblings. Attending college against all odds sets an example of success and perseverance for younger family members who look up to you.
Page last updated: 01/2018