Empowering undocumented young people to achieve educational and career goals
ADVICE FOR DACA RECIPIENTS APPLYING TO SCHOLARSHIPS
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, announced by President Obama on June 15, 2012, has widened the number of scholarships available to undocumented students. DACA is a renewable government program that, among other benefits, gives eligible undocumented youth work authorization, a social security number, and permission to stay in the country for two years.
Historically, many scholarships have excluded undocumented students because they do not have valid social security numbers, work authorization, and/or lawful presence in the United States. DACA offers an opportunity for scholarship providers to re-evaluate their policies regarding undocumented students. Nationwide we have already seen some scholarship providers change their policies and allow DACA recipients to apply. However, most scholarship providers do not know about the program yet and/or have not re-evaluated their policies. Because DACA is a new program, it is important for DACA recipients to educate scholarship providers about the DACA program and the opportunities it affords to recipients. While some scholarship providers may continue to restrict their eligibility to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, we hope that many will decide to allow DACA recipients to apply.
To help DACA recipients determine whether a scholarship might consider them for their award, we have created the following guidelines:
Investigate whether the scholarship is government-funded.
Scholarships that are funded by government dollars have very strict eligibility criteria limiting their scholarships to legal U.S. residents. If you find that a scholarship is government funded, we recommend you save your time and energy and not apply for the scholarship. Some examples of government-funded organizations include the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). To investigate if a scholarship is funded through the government, you can do a quick web search of the scholarship by looking up the organization’s website, scanning their homepage and looking for an “About Us” section. This section should describe if the organization/scholarship is privately or publicly (government) funded. Privately funded non-profit organizations are often described as 501(c)(3) organizations – they include private or family foundations, community foundations and civic or charitable organizations. Some privately-owned businesses and corporations also offer scholarships.
Ask the scholarship provider if there is a U.S. citizenship or permanent residency requirement for their scholarship.
If the scholarship appears to be privately funded, we recommend you carefully review the eligibility criteria for the scholarship. If the scholarship criteria include a U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency requirement, we suggest you send an email to the scholarship provider. Search for a “Contact us” section on their website. You can ask a question such as, “I would like to apply for your scholarship, but I am not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Is there any possibility that I can be considered for your scholarship?” (Please see “How to Inquire about Scholarship Requirements” for additional tips).
Ask the scholarship provider why there is a U.S. citizenship or permanent residency requirement.
If the scholarship provider responds that they do have a residency requirement, carefully investigate why this is the case. They might provide a response such as “scholarship recipients must be eligible to work after graduation” or “we don’t want international students applying to our scholarship” or “students need a SSN for tax purposes”. If their response falls along these lines, we strongly advise you to educate the provider about the DACA program, the benefits to DACA recipients, and your particular situation. You might try writing something like, “While I am not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, I am a recipient of the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. This grants me lawful presence, a social security number, and the ability to work legally in this country. Furthermore, I have lived and attended school here in _______ since I was _____ years old and fully intend to remain here after I graduate from college. Is there any possibility that I can be considered for your scholarship?”
If, however, the scholarship provider responds with something such as “our donors have set the eligibility requirements” or “we have a firm stance on this policy” or “at this moment we do not support undocumented applicants”, then it is unlikely you will be able to apply to their scholarship this year and we advise you to look elsewhere. However, do not let these negative responses discourage you! Simply by making inquiries and sharing your story, you are making scholarship organizations aware of the DACA program and DACA recipients’ need for financial support. The more inquiries from DACA recipients that scholarship providers receive, the more likely they will be to re-evaluate their policies. You are making a difference just by courageously making the ask!