Undocumented Students and the College Essay

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Should students reveal their undocumented status in their personal statement?

NACAC members Ethan Sawyer (also known as The College Essay Guy) and Aliza Gilbert discussed this tricky question on a recent episode of Sawyer’s podcast.

“It’s not my job to tell them whether they should or shouldn’t disclose, but I try and help walk them through it,” said Gilbert, a college counselor at Highland Park High School (IL).

She and Sawyer outline the important questions and research a student must do before making this call for themselves.

Questions like: How can you tell if an institution is supportive of undocumented students? Does the institution require all applicants to complete a FAFSA in order to be considered for private or institutional scholarships? Does my proposed major lead to certification or state licensure for which an undocumented student might be ineligible?

On his blog, Sawyer also shared two examples of excellent essays by students who chose to reveal their undocumented status and his analysis of why they worked.

While there is no hard and fast rule on whether students should disclose their status, this information goes a long way in helping students decide for themselves.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org.

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