Tips For Undocumented Students Applying to College

Though they will face complications along the way, undocumented students are able to attend college. However, because of those complications,  if you are currently an undocumented high school student, you should know a little bit about the college admissions process. 

We’ve put together a list of helpful facts and tips about applying to college without documentation. This way you can successfully apply to schools you are interested in. There will be some hurdles along the way, but it’s possible to find a school that fits you and your needs as a student!

You Can Still Attend College

Some people don’t realize it, but undocumented students can apply to and attend college without getting in trouble. Currently, there are no Federal laws stopping students from attending school without documents. In fact, the Defense Against Children Act, also known as DACA, protects your right to attend college as an undocumented student. 

A few Southern states—including Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina—have placed some restrictions on undocumented students, But on the whole, you are protected and can renew your DACA status every two years.

You Can Contact College Centers That Support Undocumented Students

Undocumented students have more support than they may realize. Not only does the law protect your right to attend college, but many schools have college centers that specifically help undocumented students apply to and continue their college education. 

We highly recommend contacting one of these centers if you are an undocumented student applying to college this fall. Not every school has a dedicated center for undocumented students, but schools with such centers tend to be a better, more welcoming fit for undocumented students.

  You Apply to College Just Like Other Students

Even if you are undocumented, you will have to apply to college just like any other student. Make sure to complete the right paperwork and forms. You want to gather letters of recommendation, your SAT or ACT scores, transcripts, and complete the other necessary requirements that colleges ask for. 

Most likely, you will also fill out the Common Application. Don’t forget to make your essay personal and consider talking about your documentation status when you write your personal statement.   

Admissions Offices Can Tell You How Your Status Affects Admissions

It’s important to talk with admissions offices as you apply for schools. Each school has different policies regarding undocumented students, so you’ll want to ask plenty of questions. This includes asking how your status affects your admission. 

Some schools will treat you as a domestic student and will let you apply for financial aid packages that other U.S. residents are eligible for. In most cases, though, students will be treated as international students and will have to compete for a limited amount of financial aid. This is why it’s so important to ask questions about your admissions process.

Your Campus Community Is Important

Not all college campuses are the same. Campus cultures across the country differ in ways that will greatly impact your academic and social lives. You should research schools you are interested in to determine how their campus cultures treat undocumented students. Organizations like the Informed Immigrant are a great place to start.

See what the school’s demographics are like and figure out whether schools are accepting of undocumented students and other minorities. Feeling safe and supported is crucial, and depending on the social climate of your college and the surrounding area, this could make or break your college experience. 

College Access Programs Can Help You Apply 

College access programs are more useful than you think. If you are the first person in your family to attend college or if you don’t have a lot of support in your efforts to attend college, find one of these programs in your local area. College access programs can help you prep for the ACT and SAT, help you apply to schools, and aid you in finding scholarships and other financial support as you apply to college

Private Scholarships Can Help You Pay For School

Colleges offer private scholarships for qualifying students. As an undocumented student, you might be able to apply for these scholarships to help pay for tuition, living expenses, food, and other school supplies. Start looking for private scholarships while you are still in high school. There might even be some opportunities to receive financial aid in your local area. 

You Should Follow Policy Changes

At the moment, undocumented students are able to apply to and attend college without any repercussions. In the future, though, the policies surrounding undocumented students could change. Politicians and lawmakers are still discussing and formulating plans for undocumented students. So, you should keep up with news related to undocumented students, because you never know when policies might change.  

You May Be Able to Get Your Application Fees Waived

Application fees can be expensive, especially if you are applying to many different colleges. In some cases, you might be able to get your application fees waived. If you need financial assistance, don’t be afraid to ask colleges if they can waive your fee. 

Make Sure to Fill Out the FAFSA

Finally, don’t forget to fill out your FAFSA forms before you send out your college applications. Again, every school offers different levels of financial aid, but there is a chance you could qualify for in-state tuition as well as other types of financial aid. 

A lot of undocumented students assume they are ineligible for financial aid. This simply isn’t true. As an undocumented student, it is still possible to get grants, scholarships, and other help. You just have to send in your FAFSA forms and ask the right questions when talking to colleges.

At HelloCollege, we know how difficult it can be to prepare for college, especially when you or your parents are unfamiliar with the process, and aim to make the process as simple and easy as possible. We want to help you get accepted into the university of your dreams!

Check out our wealth of knowledge here, and reach out to us with your college admissions questions and concerns.

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Rasha Myers

Rasha Myers

Rasha, an educator, and administrator with over a decade of experience, believes education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. Passionate about developing future generations, she has devoted her life to seeing an increase in both the availability and quality of education. As they embark upon the college admissions process, Rasha strives to ensure that every student has access to the tools and resources they need to make the best financial and educational decisions. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Tuskegee University.