Navigating Grad School Applications as an Undocumented Student

Graduate school can be a stressful and strenuous process for undocumented students, but there are ways you can navigate it and have the process work in your favor. Typically, applications include official transcripts, test scores, résumés, and letters of recommendation. However, it is important to note that each application process varies for each program; therefore, not all programs will ask for these items as a part of your application. When it comes to graduate schools, there are three aspects prospective students should keep in mind while applying: financial aid, student resources, and testing. 

  1. Financing  

No federal laws prevent undocumented students from applying to school; therefore, it is up to state regulation. States like Connecticut, California, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington allow undocumented students to apply for in-state tuition. For example, at the University of Connecticut, prospective students should apply for a status acknowledgment to be eligible for in-state tuition if they graduated from a high school in the state or have been a resident of the state for at least two years.  

Other states such as Nevada, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York welcome undocumented students to apply into their programs with different types of aid. Other types of assistance can come in the form of grants and scholarships. In addition, there are scholarships meant explicitly for undocumented students. For example, students interested in applying for graduate school should consider the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship, which offers up to 90k per year for two years of graduate school. For more scholarship opportunities check out this list of scholarships for undocumented students.  

  1. Student Resources 

Another aspect of graduate school undocumented students should be aware of is the professional and educational resources available at the school before they apply. You can find out more by checking out the school’s website or emailing the admissions office for the specific program you are interested in. These resources could be student services and programs, academic counselors, advisors, and professors, and can become a network to help students.

In addition, creating a support system to help navigate a postsecondary degree is beneficial. Students can start by reaching out to cultural centers at their universities to find other undocumented students. This way, students can find others who can resonate with their struggles and identify with them while building a supportive network amongst themselves. There are also other online resources such as MyUndocumentedLife, which helps students create an online community and gives out advice about some challenges students may face and ways to overcome those obstacles.  

  1. Testing and Identification 

Entrance Exams, such as the GRE, are becoming increasingly optional, especially for specific programs and applicants with higher GPA scores. However, some post-graduate entrance exams are still needed. Scoring in a high percentile can also boost your application. Be mindful that most exams require government-issued identifications such as state-issued IDs, passports, or social security cards. To take these exams without government-issued IDs, prospective students should reach out to the testing council.  

For example, the LSAT students should reach out to the Law School Admissions Council at least 14 days (about two weeks) before their test date to plan for alternate forms of ID, such as a school ID. This process is similar for the MCAT, DAT, and GRE.  

To learn more about your options for graduate school programs as an undocumented student, visit The Dream, an organization dedicated to providing undocumented students resources to navigate graduate programs better. Then, head on over and check all the colleges and universities that welcome undocumented students into their programs.

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By Chelsea Osei
Chelsea Osei