How to Apply to College as an Undocumented Student: 11 Tips

Growing up, many undocumented students face the harsh reality that higher education might be out of reach for them due to a lack of clear information and financial and legal concerns. However, with the right knowledge and resources, pursuing a college education is not only possible but can also lead to fulfilling career opportunities.

In this article, we will explore 11 tips to help undocumented students navigate the college application process and secure the financial aid they need to achieve their educational goals.

1. Reach Out to the University’s Center or Program for Undocumented Students

Undocumented students should connect with the university’s center or program specifically designed to support them. These centers can provide valuable information about the application process and answer questions related to financial aid.

Additionally, they serve as a resource and community for undocumented students throughout their college journey.

2. Understand How Your Status Affects the Application Process

Different universities have varying policies regarding the treatment of undocumented students during the application process. Some may consider undocumented students as domestic applicants, while others treat them as international students.

It is crucial to contact each school you plan to apply to and learn how they handle applications from undocumented students to understand their financial aid policies.

3. Consider the Campus Environment and Surrounding Community

When choosing a college, it is essential to feel comfortable and safe not only on campus but also in the surrounding town or city.

Research the community and assess its positive social climate and the availability of services for undocumented individuals. Feeling supported and welcomed in your college environment is key to a successful college experience.

4. Get Involved with College Access Programs in High School

High school students should take advantage of college access programs that offer informational meetings and test preparation courses. These programs can help students navigate the college application process and provide vital resources. Reach out to your teachers, local colleges, or your local YMCA chapter to find college access programs in your area.

5. Embrace Your Identity and Share Your Story

Many undocumented students fear revealing their immigration status during the college application process. However, embracing your identity can be powerful and compelling.

Share your story and experiences in your application essay, as it may help admissions officers understand your unique perspective and background.

6. Seek Private Scholarships

Undocumented students can start looking for private scholarships early in their senior year of high school. Private scholarships can cover not only tuition but also discretionary costs like meals, housing, transportation, and books.

Check with civic organizations in your hometown and your prospective college campus for available scholarships.

7. Inquire About Institutional Aid

While undocumented students cannot receive federal financial aid, they may be eligible for institutional aid offered by colleges and universities.

Some states may also provide financial aid for undocumented students. Contact admissions counselors and financial aid offices to inquire about the specific policies and opportunities available at each institution.

8. Ask About Fee Waivers for Applicants with Financial Need

Many colleges have policies that waive application fees for students with financial need, including undocumented students.

Don’t assume that every school will be unwilling to provide financial assistance. Reach out to the admissions office to inquire about fee waivers and explore opportunities to save on your college application expenses.

9. Consider Applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

While DACA status is not essential for accessing higher education, it opens up various opportunities, such as employment, academic internships, study abroad programs, and even financial aid.

Seek assistance to ensure accurate completion of the DACA application and explore organizations like United We Dream for guidance.

10. Stay Informed About Policy Changes

Laws and policies affecting undocumented immigrants are subject to change. It is crucial for undocumented students to stay informed about the current landscape and any updates that may affect their educational journey.

Seek reliable sources of information and verify any questions or concerns with trusted advisors.

11. Know Your Rights Regarding Financial Aid

Contrary to popular belief, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the CSS Profile is not limited to eligible US citizens.

Undocumented students, including those with DACA status, can gather the necessary information by completing these forms to apply for other forms of financial aid for which they may qualify.


Obtaining a college education may seem challenging for undocumented students, but with determination and the right guidance, it is achievable.

By following these tips, students can navigate the college application process, find valuable financial aid resources, and pursue their academic goals. Remember, every student has the right to pursue higher education, regardless of their immigration status.

Also read: How to Proofread Your College Application Essay Like a Pro: 5 Tips

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