Undocumented Students and College Access

A Quick Guide About College Access

Undocumented families are often misled about their chances of attending a college or university. Attending college or a university is a student’s educational dream. Unfortunately, undocumented students are not always informed about college access and the process. Sometimes students think that high school is the highest level of education they can achieve in America.

Figuring out college access and the application process for undocumented immigrants in the United States can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, families and students are often unaware of a lot of undisclosed information about college entrance.



As an immigrant, I moved to the U.S. entering 7th grade in middle school. It was a challenge to figure out where and how to apply for college as a high school student. The experience of learning English as a second language and figuring out college applications and requirements was not an easy task.

Fortunately, several college institutions and universities have opened doors to undocumented youths. There are several things families must consider before they apply to college. Remember that the application process differs depending on who’s undocumented in the family. The application process involves completing a Federal Student Aid form, as shared below.

Fear of Disclosure

Students often fear schools disclosing undocumented immigrants’ information in schools. Fear of disclosure is one of the main reasons why undocumented students do not pursue post-secondary education. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act is an education act that protects undocumented students. The act states that it is against the law to disclose a student’s immigration status without permission.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a financial aid form used with current and prospective college students in the United States. The application determines a student’s eligibility for student financial aid. Additionally, the FAFSA form determines whether a student qualifies for financial loans and scholarship funds.

The FAFSA process can sometimes vary among private and public colleges. Private colleges set their own rules about financial aid policies. However, most institutions use and require families to complete the form as part of the college admission process. The form reports a family income to determine eligibility status.

The completion of the FAFSA form varies depending on who in the family is undocumented. The FAFSA form is usually filled out and submitted online. Furthermore, only students with a Social Security number can complete the FAFSA form. The student cannot submit the form online without a social security number.  

As a result, parents may need to print, complete, sign, and send the form by regular mail to the address shown in the FAFSA application. The form asks for basic information from parents and students. This information includes a home address, tax, and income form.

What if a student was born in the United States, but the parents are undocumented?

If the student was born in the United States, he qualifies for financial aid. Parents’ immigration status does not affect student financial aid eligibility. If parents are undocumented and do not have Social Security, they must fill out their part of the electronic form.

In the app, enter 000-00-0000 as the Social Security number under the Parent Information section. Not having social security will not allow you to create a user account to sign the app electronically. But this does not prevent you from entering your information. Parents without a tax form can report their income information in the app. They must then print, sign and send the page to the address indicated by the form.

What if the parents and students are undocumented?

Undocumented students are not eligible for federal student aid. However, some states offer state-priced tuition to undocumented students as long as they graduate from a state high school.

To qualify for a state’s resident price tuition, the student must meet the other requirements required by the university. These requirements may be:

  • Attending a high school for a certain number of years
  • Graduating from a school that is located in that state
  • Submit the necessary applications

In addition, some students may qualify for scholarships or private financial aid. Remember that students who do not have a Social Security number should not complete a FAFSA help form. Only DACA beneficiaries with a Social Security number must complete the FAFSA form. Please check with college counselors and schools to ensure the form is necessary.

Who can apply for in-state tuition rates (lower) payments?

Documented students, U.S. citizens, and permanent residents are eligible for in-state tuition rates. This applies regardless of your parents’ immigration status for students with a social security number. To qualify parents, they must manually have a tax return or report income information on the FAFSA form.

College Planning

Planning and Applying for College

Students should begin to review and plan for college at the latest when they enter 11th grade. College research is an important step in getting access to education. One way to do this is to research educational institutions that welcome undocumented immigrants.

School counselors are great in-school supports for discussing available resources and options. While in high school, students should consider taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses during the last two years of high school. This is a great way to reduce postsecondary education tuition because Advanced Placement courses provide college credits in high school.

Early planning and research will help determine which schools welcome undocumented students and offer in-state tuition rates. Early planning is an essential piece of the college planning puzzle. This is because out-of-state tuition rates tend to cost twice as much. You may also want to look for colleges with organizations or groups supporting and guiding undocumented youths.

It is great to share that there are options for undocumented students to attend college. Fortunately, various universities and states provide access to college and welcome undocumented students. Students must begin their search early to find colleges and universities that are friendly to undocumented students. Click this link for a list of colleges and universities welcoming undocumented students.

Share your experience or what you know about the process of applying for colleges for undocumented students.

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