10 Best Scholarships for DACA Students

Opportunities for all, regardless of citizenship status.

The road to college is full of financial roadblocks. For students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, these barriers are even higher.

In several states, the perk of in-state tuition doesn’t extend to undocumented students. Additionally, DACA recipients are ineligible for federal financial aid. And while scholarships can be a great way to reduce the cost of tuition, many don’t accept applications from DACA students. 

But some scholarships do. 

Are you a DACA recipient with dreams of college? Here are 10 of the best scholarships you can apply for right now. 

No. 1: TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship

Award: $80,000

Deadline: January 30, 2020 or early 2021

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school students

TheDream.US offers the Opportunity Scholarship to undocumented high school graduates who live in locked-out states. A locked-out state is one that either: 

1) Doesn’t offer in-state tuition or 

2) Doesn’t allow enrollment in state colleges and universities. 

The Opportunity Scholarship covers tuition and fees up to $80,000 for a bachelor’s degree. This award is renewable each year for students who remain eligible. 

You may qualify for the Opportunity Scholarship if you’re from one of these locked-out states:

  • Alaska
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

No. 2: Ascend Educational Fund

Award: $2,500 – $20,000

Deadline: February 7, 2020

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school seniors

The Ascend Educational Fund is a group dedicated to providing scholarships and mentorship to first- and second-generation immigrant students. Their mission is to encourage higher education and professional achievement in order to elevate the immigrant community.

Applicants must be immigrant students in the New York City area. The Ascend Educational Fund awards scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $20,000.

No. 3: Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Award: $5,000

Deadline: February 15, 2020

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school seniors and college students

The Hispanic Heritage Fund empowers students to obtain a postsecondary degree. It provides knowledge and resources to families, while supporting students with scholarships and support services. Applicants must be of Hispanic heritage. 

No. 4: TheDream.US National Scholarship

Award: $29,000

Deadline: February 27, 2020

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school and community college students

TheDream.US National Scholarship considers itself the Pell Grant for undocumented students. The scholarship is open to students with significant, unmet financial need. 

The National Scholarship covers tuition and fees up to $14,500 for an associate’s degree and up to $29,000 for a bachelor’s degree. Some scholars may receive an additional stipend of up to $4,000 for textbooks, supplies, and transportation.

The best part: The scholarship is renewable each year, so long as scholars continue to meet the eligibility criteria.  

No. 5: The Esperanza Education Fund

Award: $20,000

Deadline: April 1, 2020

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school seniors

If you’re looking for more than financial assistance, this is the award for you. The Esperanza Education Fund provides scholarships and professional mentorship to immigrant students. In addition, the organization provides resources for students to navigate college, internships, and careers.

Recipients will receive a $20,000 award in addition to a lifelong network that prepares them to succeed both in and after college. 

No. 6: Questbridge National Match Scholarship

Award: $200,000+

Deadline: September 2020

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school seniors

Are you an academically advanced, low-income, high-school senior? Then apply for the QuestBridge National Match Scholarship.  

QuestBridge is a national nonprofit that empowers low-income students to attend the nation’s best schools. The majority of its partner universities accept undocumented students without current U.S. visas. The scholarship covers the full cost of tuition and room and board up to $200,000. Impressively, the program guarantees that scholars won’t graduate with student loans.

Additionally, if you’re a junior ready to prepare for college admissions, then apply to the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program

No. 7: Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Award: $25,000

Deadline: September 2020

How to Apply: Submit an essay here

Eligibility: High school seniors and college students

Avid readers should add one of Ayn Rand’s novels to their to-be-read pile. The Ayn Rand Institute offers three annual essay contests for a chance to earn scholarship money. All of the scholarships encourage undocumented students to apply. The reasoning? There’s speculation that Ayn Rand, a Russian-born novelist, was an undocumented immigrant before marrying an American citizen and gaining a path to citizenship. 

The Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest offers the biggest scholarship award. One first place winner will receive $25,000. To enter, applicants must submit an essay of at least 800 words. 

Next, apply to the other scholarships for Anthem and The Fountainhead.

No. 8: Golden Door Scholar

Award: $40,000

Deadline: September 30, 2020

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school and college students

The Golden Door Scholarship was created with the belief that citizenship status shouldn’t determine opportunity. Rather, tenacity and hard work should. Golden Door Scholars receive a $40,000 scholarship for an undergraduate degree.

The scholarship typically has an annual September deadline.

No. 9: Cooke College Scholarship Program

Award: $40,000

Deadline: November 2020 

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school seniors

The Cooke College Scholarship Program is available to high-achieving high-school seniors. The program awards varying scholarships based on demonstrated need. The award’s upward range is $40,000 to cover a significant portion of students’ educational expenses, including tuition, housing, and supplies.

No. 10: Immigrants Rising’s Scholarship Fund

Award: $7,000

Deadline: December 2020

How to Apply: Submit an application here

Eligibility: High school and college students

Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) is an organization that empowers undocumented youth by hosting a series of programs. One of it’s most successful initiatives is the Immigrants Rising’s Scholarship Fund. This award provides financial assistance to low-income immigrant students who live and/or attend college in the San Francisco Bay area.

More resources for DACA students

Below are several questions, answers, and financial assistance resources for DACA students who are headed to college:

Can DACA recipients receive financial aid?

Yes and no. 

DACA recipients cannot receive federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant and federal student loans. 

DACA students can apply for and receive certain scholarships. Applicants should read scholarship requirements carefully; looking for the following DACA-friendly criteria:

  • Openly encourages DACA recipients to apply
  • Doesn’t ask about immigration status
  • Doesn’t require a social security number

College enrollment eligibility for DACA recipients also varies. 

Some states – Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina – prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in public colleges entirely. In contrast, a majority of states welcome undocumented students.In fact, “19 states have provisions allowing for in-state tuition rates for undocumented students,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

The 19 states where DACA students can receive in-state tuition include: 

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington

Scholarships for DACA recipients are often easier to find in places with open policies, such as these 19 states.

Where can DACA recipients find scholarships?

Financial assistance has the power to turn college into a reality. Here are additional resources to help DACA recipients in their scholarship search.

Dreamers Roadmap 

The Dreamers Roadmap is a free national mobile app that connects undocumented students to scholarships. The app provides resources to support students who are left out of a majority of financial aid funding.

Immigrant Rising’s List of Undergraduate Scholarships 

Immigrant Rising provides a downloadable PDF that lists undergraduate scholarships. The list contains scholarships at the local, state, and national level and is organized by deadline. Be sure to check back often, as it’s frequently updated. 


MALDEF is a leading Latino legal civil rights organization. One of its resources is a scholarship catalog for undocumented students. The scholarships listed don’t inquire about immigration status or require a SSN.

Have you found any DACA-friendly resources? Share with our community on Twitter @OppUniversity.