The great news is that there are a lot of ways that undocumented students can raise money for college. My next few blog posts will provide a number of tips on college fundraising, but please keep in mind that these are just a few suggestions that I have seen work for undocumented students I know. They are by no means the only fundraising options available to you. As an undocumented student, you MUST be creative and resourceful in order to raise the funds you need to attend college. My hope is that some of you undocumented students out there will comment on this post to add fundraising tips and ideas that have worked for you because you really are the best resource for other students!
WRITING A WINNING SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION
Because undocumented immigrant students are ineligible for state and federal financial aid, most rely heavily on scholarships to fund their college education. However, it is important to remember that while scholarships are a great resource, they are unlikely to cover a student's entire college education. This is partly because there are a limited number of scholarships that do not require applicants to be a US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident. The fact that there are a limited number of scholarships available to undocumented students also means that the application process for these monies can be extremely competitive. For these reasons, it is important to make sure that your scholarship applications are as strong as they can be. Below are a few tips to help you:
- Research Scholarships - This can be a time-consuming process, so you need to be strategic when researching scholarships. First, start with your own high school or college. If you are in high school, visit your College Center to look for scholarships available to you through your high school, community organizations, or private funders. If you are in college, visit your college's Financial Aid office, Scholarship office, or Foundation office and see if there are private scholarships that you qualify for. You should also look to local community organizations for possible scholarship opportunities. You can also find additional scholarship information on the following websites:
You can also Google "undocumented student scholarships." You would be surprised how much scholarship information is available on the internet.
- Check Residency Requirements - One mistake students sometimes make is not checking for residency requirements. It can be a big waste of time to complete and submit a scholarship application just to realize that you are not eligible due to residency requirements. However, some students do not take no for an answer. If you meet all of the criteria for a scholarship except the residency requirements, you may want to contact the scholarship provider to find out if you can still apply. Some undocumented students I know have called the provider for more information and been told that they can apply. Some of these students were eventually awarded the scholarship! So, don't hesitate to give the scholarship provider a call to find out if you're eligible. You don't have to tell them your name or provide any other identifying information if you don't want to.
- Follow Directions - This may seem obvious but you would be surprised at how many students submit incomplete or incorrectly completed scholarship applications. Make sure you are clear about what the application is asking for and that you complete all of the applications requirements, such as filling out the application, writing an essay, attaching a resume, acquiring letters of recommendation, etc.
- Apply for Multiple Scholarships - Because scholarship award amounts vary and the scholarship application process can be very competitive, you should not rely on just a few scholarships. The undocumented students I know who have been most successful in applying for scholarships are constantly looking for new scholarship opportunities and apply for scholarships throughout their high school and/or college years. For undocumented students, applying for scholarships is an ongoing process.
- Proofread Application - You are not always the best person to correct your own mistakes, so it is highly recommended that you have someone else proofread your application. Ideally, you should have a teacher, counselor, advisor, mentor or some other professional take a look at your application before you submit it. As someone who has reviewed the scholarship applications of hundreds of students, it is always obvious to me when a student has or has not had someone proofread their application for them.
- BONUS TIP: Develop a Resume - Some scholarship applications will ask you to submit a resume along with your application. Having a strong resume will help strengthen your scholarship applications and it can be used to apply for internships or other work opportunitites. The resume is also a tool that will be very helpful to you as you engage in other fundraising strategies that will be described in future blog posts. Please visit the following link for a sample resume: Sample Resume (see p.6-8).
Visit this blog again soon for information and advice on raising money for college by developing your own Fundraising Portfolio.