College Scholarships for DACA and Undocumented Students

For undocumented students, the college dream can be unreachable without enough financial support. Discover scholarships for undocumented students.

portrait of Debbi Johnson-Rais, Ed.D.
by Debbi Johnson-Rais, Ed.D.

Updated September 30, 2022

Reviewed by Andy Buchanan

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College Scholarships for DACA and Undocumented Students
Image Credit: Marc Romanelli / Tetra Images / Getty Images

According to The Washington Post, more than 11 million undocumented immigrants lived in the U.S. as of 2018. As many as 3.6 million immigrated before they turned 18, which should qualify most of them for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. However, in 2018, only 690,000 individuals received DACA status.

Though still under review, the DREAM Act proposes a pathway to legal status for DACA-eligible immigrants if they pursue higher education. However, since they are ineligible for federal aid, these students must finance their education in other ways.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Can Undocumented Students Apply for Scholarships?

Each year, roughly 100,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools across the country, reported The Washington Post in 2019. With federal financial aid out of reach, state and private scholarships for undocumented students become especially valuable. Many states do not offer government-funded scholarships for undocumented students. However, at least seven states, including Texas and California, do offer financial aid.

Additionally, many private scholarships do not require U.S. citizenship for eligibility. This gives undocumented students a chance to apply for financial awards.

Where to Find Scholarships

There are several places to find scholarships for undocumented students, including scholarship databases and school and educational resource pages. Learners should also check with immigration and DACA-related student support organizations. The following list provides more details about these options:

5 Things to Consider During the Scholarship Application Process

The scholarship application process for undocumented students typically looks the same as the application process for other scholarships. However, in some cases, applicants may be required to submit proof of DACA or legal immigration status. Candidates should understand their state's immigration laws before submitting any information about their immigration status.

Common application materials include transcripts, resumes, letters of recommendation, and financial information. Proof of residency and personal letters or essays also may be requested.

Here are five tips to consider when applying for scholarships:

  1. 1
    Start the Process Early: Applicants should start looking for potential scholarships sooner rather than later. They can identify opportunities, verify requirements, and start working toward satisfying them without feeling rushed.
  2. 2
    Gather and Review Materials: Getting a jump on putting together application materials can help students avoid potential headaches. Gather all of your immigration documents, transcripts, and recommendation letters early in the process.
  3. 3
    Track Your Deadlines: Prospective students should keep a calendar of application deadlines to avoid missing important dates. By maintaining a calendar, they can keep track of their most pressing deadlines and requirements. This can help give students enough time to fill out each application.
  4. 4
    Know the Requirements: Undocumented students should verify whether they meet the requirements for a scholarship before starting applications. You don't want to waste your time filling out an application only to find out later that you're ineligible for the award.
  5. 5
    Check State Immigration Laws: Before applying for scholarships, undocumented students should know their state laws and their rights. If possible, they should speak with a school counselor or a representative from an immigration organization.

5 Scholarships for Undocumented Students

Golden Door Scholars

Who Is Eligible?: Learners with financial need, high GPAs, and leadership experience can apply. There is a preference for undergraduate degrees in engineering, nursing, and data analytics. Recipients can be in high school or new graduates. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA.

Application Deadline: October 23, 2022

Scholarship Amount: Varies


National Scholarship

Who Is Eligible?: High school or community college graduates with or without DACA status can apply. Students must have come to the U.S. before the age of 16 and qualify for in-state tuition.

Application Deadline: January 31, 2023

Scholarship Amount: Tuition and fees up to $16,500 for associate degrees and $33,000 for bachelor's degrees. An additional stipend of $4,000-$5,000 is possible for books.


Opportunity Scholarship

Who Is Eligible?: Students with or without DACA status who live in states that do not offer in-state tuition to DREAMers are eligible. Students must have come to the U.S. before the age of 16.

Application Deadline: January, 31, 2023

Scholarship Amount: Up to $80,000


QuestBridge

Who Is Eligible?: High school students with high GPAs and financial need, regardless of citizenship status, can apply. Undocumented students must match with colleges that will accept their status.

Application Deadline: September 27, 2022

Scholarship Amount: Four-year scholarship up to $200,000


Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

Who Is Eligible?: High school students with financial need pursuing careers in social justice can apply regardless of citizenship. Applicants must submit a personal statement, transcripts, and signed references.

Application Deadline: April 1, 2023

Scholarship Amount: Up to $15,000

5 Scholarships for DACA Students

The Dream Award

Who Is Eligible?: DACA students who have completed at least one year of college or trade school with a 3.0 GPA may apply. This scholarship was created to provide forward momentum for students with challenges related to college.

Application Deadline: Varies

Scholarship Amount: $500-$15,000 per year. Renewable for three years.


MPOWER Global Citizen Scholarship

Who Is Eligible?: DACA students enrolled in a degree program full time at U.S. or Canadian institutions are eligible.

Application Deadline: Varies

Scholarship Amount: Grand Prize: $10,000; Runner-Up: $2,000; Honorable Mention: $2,000


The Esperanza Education Fund

Who Is Eligible? This is a need-based scholarship for immigrant students or students with both parents born outside the U.S. Students must be from the District of Columbia metro area, Maryland, or Virginia. It includes mentorship and scholar support.

Application Deadline: Varies

Scholarship Amount: Up to $20,000


Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Who Is Eligible? Applicants must be of Hispanic heritage with a minimum 3.0 GPA for high school or a 2.5 GPA for college. Students must also submit federal student aid forms.

Application Deadline: Varies

Scholarship Amount: Up to $5,000


Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

Who Is Eligible? This scholarship is a national award that provides students in community college the opportunity to earn their bachelor's degree at a four-year institution. The scholarship includes college planning support, networking, and mentorship opportunities. Applicants must possess a minimum 3.5 GPA and have financial need.

Application Deadline: Varies

Scholarship Amount: Up to $55,000 per year

Learn more about the Golden Door Scholarship and apply to the program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships for DACA and Undocumented Students

How can undocumented students pay for college?

Scholarships for undocumented students are a great way to pay for school. Since these students cannot apply for federal aid, they should check for private, state, and school scholarships. Loans and payment plans also may be available. Depending on their situation, DACA students also can consider working for a college, university, or private company that has a tuition remission program for employees.

Can undocumented immigrants get college scholarships?

Yes. There are many scholarships for undocumented students available from various state funding sources and private organizations. As of July 2021, seven states offered state aid to undocumented learners. Many private scholarships do not ask for proof of citizenship.

How can undocumented students apply for scholarships?

Scholarships for undocumented students typically employ the same application process as most other scholarships. Applicants must gather their high school transcripts and complete all application requirements. In many cases, these scholarships simply avoid asking for proof of citizenship, though some may require proof of DACA status.

Can undocumented students complete the FAFSA?

Undocumented students cannot qualify for federal funding. However, a completed FAFSA could still help learners access state funding opportunities. Degree-seekers also should look for private and state scholarships for undocumented students. Some schools may provide institutional funds for DACA and undocumented students. In this case, students may need to complete the College Board's College Scholarship Service Profile or an institutional aid application.

Do DACA recipients qualify for financial aid?

Although DACA students do not qualify for federal student aid, there are funding options available to them. Some states do offer state funding to DACA recipients. Further, grants, scholarships, and loans are options available to them based on need or other specific eligibility requirements. College work-study programs are another option for students and employ students unable to work outside the university community. Finally, various employers offer opportunities by providing work permits to DACA recipients.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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