Scholarships for Undocumented Students

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By Doug Wintemute

Reviewed by Mary Louis and Susana Muñoz, Ph.D.

Published on September 2, 2021

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According to 2018 estimates, more than 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. 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.

Can Undocumented Students Apply for Scholarships?

Each year, roughly 100,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools across the country. 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 also should check with immigration and DACA-related student support organizations. The following list provides more details about these options:

Scholarship Applications

The scholarship application process for undocumented students typically requires the same steps as other scholarships. However, in some cases, applicants may be required to submit proof of DACA or legal immigrant status. Candidates should understand their state's immigration laws prior to submitting any information related to 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 some tips to follow when applying for scholarships:

Scholarships for Undocumented Students

Achieve Today Scholarship Fund
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 18 years old and enrolled in a college or university. They also need to submit a 3-5-minute video or audio clip or an 800-word essay describing their personal development or high performance.
  • Award Amount: $2,000
  • Deadline: August or December
View Scholarship
"Be Bold" No-Essay Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants must create and maintain a profile on Bold.org and they should apply early for the best chance at success. The applicant with the "boldest" profile wins the award.
  • Award Amount: $25,000
  • Deadline: Rolling monthly application deadlines
View Scholarship
Coupons Plus Deals "Save for Future" Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be undergraduate juniors or seniors with a minimum 3.2 GPA. They also need to submit a 1,000-word essay.
  • Award Amount: $3,000
  • Deadline: December
View Scholarship
DoSomething.org Scholarships
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be younger than 25, live in North America, and demonstrate a commitment to community service.
  • Award Amount: $1,000-$2,000
  • Deadline: Varies
View Scholarship
Environmental Awareness Scholarship Essay
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be high school, college, or university students. They must submit an 800-word essay on an environmental awareness topic.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: February or September
View Scholarship
FIRE Free Speech Essay Contest
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be juniors or seniors in high school. They need to submit a 700-900-word essay on free speech.
  • Award Amount: $500-$10,000
  • Deadline: December
View Scholarship
Golden Door Scholars Program
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be undocumented and ineligible for in-state tuition rates. They also need a strong GPA and a history of community involvement.
  • Award Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Varies
View Scholarship
iVein Health and Wellness Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants must attend college full time and have a minimum 3.7 GPA. They also need to submit an 800-1,000-word essay on healthy lifestyles.
  • Award Amount: $2,500
  • Deadline: August or December
View Scholarship
Lounge Lizard Web Design Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be enrolled or plan to enroll in a college or university. They must also submit an original web design.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: October or February
View Scholarship
MarvelOptics.com Scholarship Program
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be full-time students in college or university. They also need to post a one-minute video or a 300-word essay responding to a prompt.
  • Award Amount: $1,500
  • Deadline: January or August
View Scholarship
May Firm Injury Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants need to be enrolled in a college and university. They also need to submit a 300-word essay.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: January or September
View Scholarship
MoolahSPOT Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 16 years old and attending or planning to attend a college or university. They also need to submit a short essay.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: August
View Scholarship
Price It Here, Inc. Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be enrolled at a college or university. They must also submit a 500-word essay.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: November or May
View Scholarship
SelfLawyer First-Generation Immigrant Scholarship
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be first-generation immigrants attending college or university. They also need to submit a 500-word essay.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: December
View Scholarship
Spotless Cleaning Chicago Scholarship Program
  • Eligibility: Applicants must be current undergraduate or high school students. They need to submit a video demonstrating their passion for education.
  • Award Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: December
View Scholarship

Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships for Undocumented Students

How can undocumented students pay for college? true

Scholarships for undocumented students are among the best ways 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 hosts a tuition remission program for employees.

Can undocumented immigrants get college scholarships? true

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 use the same application process as most other scholarships. Applicants usually need to 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 gain access to 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.

Financial Aid Review by:

Mary Louis is a Brooklyn native who currently resides in Nashville, where she works at a state community college. She has worked in financial aid and recruitment as a registrar and bursar at city, state, for-profit, and Ivy League institutions, as well as at HBCUs. Louis' financial aid experience includes writing policies and procedures; overseeing satisfactory academic progress, state and federal aid, scholarships, private education lending, and federal verification; and assisting families with completing the FAFSA.


Anti-Bias Review by:

Dr. Susana M. Muñoz is Associate Professor of higher education, Program Coordinator of the Higher Education Leadership (HEL) Program, and Co-Director of CSU initiatives for the Race and Intersectional Studies for Educational Equity (RISE) Center in the School of Education at Colorado State University (CSU).

Her scholarly interests center on the experiences of minoritized populations in higher education. Specifically, Dr. Muñoz focuses her research on issues of equity, identity, and campus climate for undocumented Latinx students, while employing perspectives such as legal violence, racist nativism, and Chicana feminist epistemology to identify and dismantle power, oppression, and inequities as experienced by these populations. She utilizes multiple research methods as mechanisms to examine these matters with the ultimate goal of informing immigration policy and higher education practices.

Dr. Muñoz has been honored by the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics for her teaching and research. She was also recognized as a Salzburg Global Fellow and named one of the "top 25 most influential women in higher education" by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine. She also brings 13 years of student affairs experience in multicultural affairs, Greek life, diversity and leadership training, TRiO programs, and residence life.

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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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