Golden Door Scholarship Connects Undocumented Students to College

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Updated on August 19, 2022
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College students without legal status in the U.S. face major hurdles, but are also eligible for a growing number of generous scholarships, like Golden Door.

Amid ongoing refugee crises, U.S. colleges and higher education organizations are rallying to provide displaced and undocumented students with basic resources and academic opportunities.

Undocumented students face major hurdles to receiving a college education — from lack of cultural capital in the application process to ineligibility for federal financial aid.

The swelling movement in higher education to support undocumented students means that private schools and scholarships increasingly do not ask for citizenship status. Other programs, like Golden Door Scholars, make undocumented status a prerequisite.

Golden Door Scholars, a nonprofit founded in 2013, offers full-ride college scholarships to high-achieving undocumented students. Initially available only to students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Golden Door is now open to all undocumented students; recipients are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Applications for Golden Door scholarships are open through midnight Sunday, Oct. 10.

Golden Door awards up to four years of undergraduate tuition and room and board at one of nearly 20 partner colleges. Golden Door supports students who wish to attend a different four-year institution on a case-by-case basis.

Golden Door Scholarship Partner Colleges

  • Agnes Scott College
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Davidson
  • Duke University
  • Elon University
  • Emory University
  • Franklin & Marshall College
  • Guilford College
  • Hamilton
  • Meredith College
  • Oberlin College
  • Queens University of Charlotte
  • Rhodes College
  • Smith College
  • Tufts University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Wingate University
  • Wofford
  • Case Western Reserve University

Golden Door matches scholarship recipients with colleges based on student preference (applicants pick their top three schools) and school admission availability. The nonprofit provides a direct route to a number of prestigious colleges, as well as access to mentors, opportunities for fellowships, internships, and professional growth, and an annual career readiness summit.

Students attending college in Fall 2022 that are in the DACA program or have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) status or are undocumented are eligible for Golden Doors. Strong preference is given to applicants who are not eligible for in-state tuition or federal funding. Strong preference is also given to students interested in pursuing software engineering, nursing, data analytics, business analytics, and digital marketing. Popular majors that align with these career paths include math, statistics, economics, computer science, and data science.

In addition to specifying intended major and career path, applicants are asked to submit a two-minute video and one of the essays used for college applications.

Producing all the official paperwork assocciated with college and scholarship applications can be a barrier for refugee and undocumented students. Like a growing number of colleges, the Golden Door scholarship is test-optional. Students may submit SAT and ACT scores if they wish. Likewise, letters of recommendation are not required. However, Golden Door does emphasize the need for strong academic records, and transcripts (official or unofficial) are required.

Editor's Note: Ric Elias is the founder of Golden Door Scholars and the CEO of Red Ventures, which owns BestColleges.

Feature Image: SOPA Images / Contributor / LightRocket / Getty Images