Undocumented students occupy a very precarious and uncertain position. Many fear for their own safety and well-being. Others are left to wonder what the future may hold, or if they will be able to enjoy the opportunities a college education can provide.
Some 10.5 million undocumented immigrants reside in the U.S. and nearly 100,000 graduate high school each year. A successful college experience depends on access to solid support resources. Many colleges continue to expand these resources for undocumented students, and states like New York have mandated access. We now know that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) protected nearly 800,000 young immigrants, but recent reports suggest that undocumented students still struggle to access the resources they need.
Designed with undocumented students in mind, this guide lists some important resources that can help make college dreams a reality. It discusses social support and advocacy tools, and focuses on resources available to undocumented students interested in any major in college, including healthcare. It also lists scholarships and offers tips on how to submit a successful application.
Scholarships & Financial Aid for Undocumented Students
Higher education can be a big cost for anyone, and undocumented students are no exception. In fact, undocumented students likely do not have easy access to the same financial aid resources as other students and may have to work harder to cover their expenses.
Fortunately, many schools and organizations offer grants and scholarships to undocumented students interested in higher education, including healthcare majors. All you need to do is know where to look. Scholarships like those listed below are financial benefits awarded to students who show exceptional promise. These awards often cover tuition and other educated-related expenses. They do not need to be repaid and are renewable in some cases.
Applicants must be graduating high school seniors with a minimum 2.0 GPA. They must demonstrate clear financial need and plan to attend an accredited institution. This award is open to DACA recipients.
How to Apply
Qualified undocumented students must submit the application form and provide transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal essay.
Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund
This scholarship supports students committed to social and economic justice. It is open to undocumented students currently enrolled in an accredited program.
How to Apply
Applicants must supply a personal statement, financial information demonstrating need, two letters of recommendation, and academic transcripts.
Applicants should be DACA recipients in their first year of undergraduate study. Additional requirements include a 3.0 GPA or higher and demonstrated financial need.
How to Apply
Undocumented students must complete an online application and provide verification of their enrollment status.
Esperanza Education Fund
This award is open to undocumented students planning to attend a public college or university. Applicants must be graduating seniors in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C.
How to Apply
The application requires two letters of recommendation and two personal essays. Finalists will be interviewed by the selection committee.
Golden Door Scholars
Qualified students must meet DACA, TPS, or immigration eligibility criteria as specified by the organization.
How to Apply
Application materials include high school transcripts indicating a 3.0 GPA or higher. Additional information may also be required.
Medical and Health Scholarships
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
Qualified students need to be studying dietetics or a related field at an accredited school. Several awards are available and open to undocumented students.
How to Apply
Applicants must submit an online form and provide academic transcripts.
This award is open to all students currently enrolled in a postsecondary institution in the U.S.
How to Apply
The application requires personal information and an essay on the societal effects of drug addiction.
American Health Information Management Association
Applicants must be AHIMA members actively pursuing a health information management degree or a related subject. They must also have a 3.5 GPA or higher.
How to Apply
Qualified students need to provide references, academic information, and transcripts.
The American College of Legal Medicine
All students currently studying medicine, law, dentistry, podiatry, pharmacy, nursing and other health science degree fields may apply.
How to Apply
Applicants must submit a competitive paper on law, medicine, and bioethics.
American Dental Assistants Association
A number of awards are available to students who are enrolled in traditional or accredited online dental assistant programs. Applicants must be members of the ADAA.
How to Apply
Students must complete an online application form and provide supplementary materials that demonstrate their achievements in dental assisting.
5 Keys to Landing Your Scholarship
- Key #1: Be personal and genuine
Most scholarships seek students who can connect with others on a personal level. If you are given an essay prompt that asks you to draw on your own experience take that requirement seriously. Be honest and genuine about your aspirations.
- Key #2: Complete all the application requirements
Be sure that you read all the instructions and follow them carefully. Committees are looking for candidates that pay attention to detail. Applications that do not follow the full instructions often won’t get a second look.
- Key #3: Do your research and tailor your materials
Nothing turns off decision committees more than a cover letter or personal essay clearly written for a different scholarship. Do not copy and paste your material. Research the organization that sponsors the award and tailor your application to their goals. This shows clear initiative and thoughtfulness.
- Key #4: Google yourself ahead of time
Be careful with your social media presence and online footprint. It is not unusual for committee members to search for your presence online. Do this on your own ahead of time and be mindful of how you are presenting yourself to others.
- Key #5: Select good references
Most scholarships will ask for references or recommendation letters. Be sure that you select good references who can assess your abilities. Talk to you recommenders well in advance of the deadline and stay in close communication with them throughout the process.
College Resources for Undocumented Students
If you are an undocumented student in college (or an aspiring student) there are a number of good resources available to you. These include education and career tools, social support networks, and advocacy groups. Organizations and agencies like those below are there to help you as you work to achieve goals.
Academic & Career
- Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
This consortium consists of nearly 500 different institutions across the country committed to expanding access to education. The association hosts regular conferences and events and conducts research to help undocumented students. It also maintains several strategic partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups.
- Immigrants Rising
First established in 2006, this organization supports immigrants and undocumented students by offering education and career services. It houses a comprehensive, searchable resource directory and provides legal advice to those in need. Undocumented students can also use its job board to find employment opportunities.
- My Undocumented Life
This site maintains a massive resource repository for undocumented students at every level of educational attainment. It posts relevant job and internship openings and connects students with education counselors and career coaches. It also aggregates news and recent developments on key issues.
- Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition
An arm of the American Council on Education, this group strives to protect the rights of Dreamers and undocumented students across the country. It often works in partnership with other governmental agencies to ensure that vulnerable students receive proper benefits and educational opportunity.
This nonprofit helps undocumented students through financial assistance and education preparation. It partners with higher education institutions, develops media guides, and supports local fundraising efforts. Many undocumented students use its extensive scholarship database to find financial aid opportunities.
Social & Networking
- Dream Activist
This group connects activists and undocumented students throughout the country. Founded in 2008 by undocumented youth, the online network sponsors many different local and regional campaigns dedicated to protecting the human rights and civil liberties of immigrants.
- National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
This network exists to expand and defend the rights of all immigrants and refugees, including undocumented students. It connects allies, advocates, and affected persons through local programs and initiatives. It also maintains an active presence on social media.
- United We Dream
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country. It supports and connects undocumented students through local events on college campuses and various development efforts. Any undocumented student or ally can join.
Advocacy & Diversity
- American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) The ACLU has fought to defend and preserve individual rights in the U.S. since 1920. Based in New York City, the nonprofit works to ensure that immigrants and undocumented students continue to enjoy equal protection under the law. It works to influence national policy decisions and combat discrimination.
- Immigration Advocates Network
This organization uses new technologies to offer support and collaboration to undocumented students and their allies. It develops projects that bridge the digital divide and sponsors a variety of campaigns that defend immigrants and safeguard their basic rights.
- Informed Immigrant
This site provides a safe space for immigrants and undocumented students to access the resources they need for success. It connects individuals with educators and service providers and works to ensure that undocumented students know their rights. It also houses a database of DACA renewal clinics.
- National Immigration Law Center
Founded in 1979, this organization is dedicated to helping low-income undocumented persons by offering legal advice. It connects affected individuals with legal experts, sponsors training events, and maintains several legal assistance directories.
- American Medical Association
(AMA) First established in 1847, the AMA is the largest association of medical students and working professionals in the country. It supports its members through events and continuing education efforts. It also sponsors several highly influential publications in healthcare education.
- Healthcare Education Association
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, the Healthcare Education Association is a professional organization for healthcare students and educators. It promotes evidence-based care and education through conferences, mailing lists, and patient guides.
- Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools
This organization strives to strengthen and increase nationwide capacity for Hispanic healthcare workers. It offers comprehensive health science education resources and hosts regular events available to both its members and the general public.
- Institute for Diversity and Health Equity
An affiliate of the American Hospital Association, this group empowers healthcare organizations to provide equitable care to all persons, including undocumented students. It maintains a comprehensive library of resources and offers training events for students and working professionals.
- National AHEC Organization
This organization supports Area Health Education Centers at the national-level by advertising employment opportunities and offering training experiences. It hosts a comprehensive job board, engages in advocacy efforts in healthcare, and develops curricula for healthcare students.