Counselor self-assessment

Five common misperceptions about DACA/undocumented students and college

“You can’t go to college at all if you don’t have a social security #.”

Not true! Admissions policies differ state to state and among institutional types within a state (private, public, 2-year, 4-year). However, there is a pathway forward for students who don’t have a social security number. It may be a narrower path (think of a partially open window and not a fully open door), but it is not accurate to tell students there is no way forward at all. See the “admissions” section of this website for details.

“You can’t get financial aid to go to college if you don’t have a social security #.”

Not true! While completion of the FAFSA does depend on having a SSN, there are private aid sources that do not. Students may be eligible for need-based or merit-based aid that does not come from federal sources, such as foundations, churches, private organizations, college endowments, etc. In addition, if you have DACA status you may apply to receive a SSN, and then have more opportunities available to you. See the “financial aid” section of this website for details.

“People like
me” can’t go
to college. My
parents didn’t, so I can’t either.”

There are many types of colleges to match the many types of students we meet. There are highly competitive colleges, technical programs, and everything in between. Being first generation in the U.S. or first generation in college may mean a steep learning curve, but counselors should not
be stereotyping students based on their demographic categories. We should be encouraging students based on their interests and potential. See “community resources” section of this website.

“College is a
waste of time
if my family
needs me to
earn a

We must be careful not to suggest to a student that we know what their family needs better than they do. However, we can suggest that college is an investment, one that carries a cost right now but also may bring greater rewards in the future. We can also help a student think about how to balance part time work and part time studies, or plan to work for one year to save funds and then study for a year afterwards. There are many ways to balance needs. See the “stories” section of the website for real examples you can share with students.

“No one understands
my situation,
and no one can help me.”

It may be true that a counselor has not worked with many students with DACA or without documents. However, we can always inform ourselves and improve our readiness to help. This may include building empathy and understanding, gaining knowledge and perspective, and
connecting with role models or community members who have already done the things our students are trying to do. There are many sections of this website that can help you do just that.

We hope you will debunk these misperceptions when you hear them and will accept the challenge to provide undocu-friendly college planning services!