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10 Great Scholarships for DACA Students

By
Samantha Rose
Samantha Rose covers financial literacy for the educational arm of OppLoans. Her work focuses on providing hands-on resources for high school and college-age students in addition to their parents and educators.
Updated on March 18, 2021
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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.

Fortunately, scholarships can bridge the gap.

Scholarships for DACA recipients are largely funded by donors dedicated to uplifting undocumented immigrant communities. So if you’re a DACA recipient with dreams of college but no funding, don’t lose hope. These 10 DACA-friendly scholarships are a great place to start. Then, use the resources below to continue your scholarship search.

10 scholarships for DACA students

Before applying to scholarships, DACA recipients should read the eligibility requirements. For these, we took the guesswork out of the process — they’re DACA-friendly verified.

No. 1: TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship

Award: $80,000

Deadline: Annually in January

How to apply: Submit an application to TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship. 

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 doesn’t offer in-state tuition or 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
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

No. 2: Ascend Educational Fund

Award: $20,000

Deadline: Annually in February

How to apply: Submit an application to the Ascend Educational Fund. 

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: Annually in February

How to apply: Submit an application to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. 

Eligibility: High school seniors and college students

The Hispanic Heritage Fund empowers students to obtain a post-secondary 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: Annually in February

How to apply: Submit an application to TheDream.US National Scholarship. 

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 is that 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: Annually in April

How to apply: Submit an application to The Esperanza Education Fund. 

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: Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests

Award: $2,000-$25,000

Deadline: Annually in April and September

How to apply: Submit an essay to one of the Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests. 

Eligibility: High schoolers, undergraduate students, and graduate 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 on Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged 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.

No. 7: PepsiCo Cesar Chavez Latino Scholarship Fund

Award: $5,000

Deadline: Annually in July

How to apply: Submit an application to the PepsiCo Chavez Latino Scholarship Fund. 

Eligibility: High school and college students

The PepsiCo Cesar Chavez Latino Scholarship helps Hispanic students who are pursuing higher education. Students must be active participants in extracurriculars and volunteer in their community. To be eligible, students must reside and attend college in Arizona or California and must be a U.S. citizen, permanent legal resident, undocumented, DACA, CA Dreamer, or eligible non-citizen as defined by the FAFSA.

No. 8: Questbridge National Match Scholarship

Award: $200,000

Deadline: Annually in September

How to apply: Submit an application to the Questbridge National Match Scholarship. 

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 worth 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. 9: Golden Door Scholars

Award: $40,000

Deadline: Annually in October

How to apply: Submit an application to the Golden Door Scholars. 

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 toward an undergraduate degree.

No. 10: Cooke College Scholarship Program

Award: $40,000

Deadline: Annually in October

How to apply: Submit an application to the Cooke College Scholarship Program. 

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.

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 private scholarships. Applicants should read scholarship requirements carefully and look 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 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 offer in-state tuition rates for undocumented students:

  • 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.

Immigrant Rising’s List of Undergraduate Scholarships 

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

MALDEF

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 Social Security number.

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