College-Career Readiness for English Language Learners

Your Child Can Thrive in the Career or College They Want!

Postsecondary access is more important than ever, and the New York City Department of Education is here to ensure our multilingual Learners and immigrant students thrive in their future career. We are here to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college, the modern workforce, and life in a global society. Your child has the right to access opportunities that will help them reach economic security, a fulfilling career trajectory, and joy as they mature into adulthood. Here are some tips and resources you can use to support your child on their journey.

Know Your Rights

In New York, all multilingual learners and immigrant students can attend college, including undocumented students. Also in New York, colleges and public schools are prohibited from inquiring about and reporting the immigration status of their students.

You should also know that you are not alone in this journey and building a support network is key to learning about different career pathways and college environments. You can get support from your school’s trusted teachers and school counselors. You and your child can think through a variety of questions to ask school staff, have follow-up meetings for progress, and advocate for the needs of your child.

Know Your Community

You are your child’s biggest champion. Always affirm their identity, encourage them to hold on to their home language, and expose them to the dynamic ways immigrants have shaped NYC. In addition to you and the community in your school, there are communities outside of your child’s school that want to help our multilingual and immigrant students succeed. Identify Community-Based Organizations that are committed to supporting NYC’s linguistically, racially, and culturally diverse students. Help your child find active ways to be involved in their community and familiarize yourself with advocacy groups to have as your support team.

Know Your Options

It's never too early to start thinking about college and career options. Visit the College and Career Planning page to learn more about how you can assist your child in planning for their future no matter what grade they are in.

Deciding what to explore while in high school as well as what to do after graduation can be difficult. This may be the first time that your child is required to start thinking about different educational choices, explore career options, and make such major decisions regarding their own life. Encourage your child to participate in work-based learning such as volunteering, job shadowing, and internships. Ask your school’s counselor about dual enrollment programs such as College Now and Advanced Placement that help your child potentially access college credits while in high school. Identify the multiple ways to fund your child’s future postsecondary plans such as scholarships opened to immigrant students and additional ways to pay for college.

Upcoming Multilingual and Immigrant Family Workshops

Provided by the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Multilingual Learners, and facilitated in partnership with CUNY this school year, the Immigrant Ambassador Program offers monthly workshops from current college students focused on topics related to postsecondary planning for immigrant NYC DOE students and families.

Register for Upcoming Sessions

Title: Solicitar la Identificación Como Inmigrante/Applying for Identification as an Immigrant

  • Date: April 27, 2023
  • Time: 5:00-6:00 PM
  • Language: Spanish
  • Register using this form
  • Summary: Families will understand the importance of having identification as an immigrant and ways to apply for it as an immigrant. Understand the Green Light Law & Real ID Act.

Title: Multilingual and Immigrant Family Conference and Resource Fair

  • Date: April 27-29, 2023
  • Time: April 27, 6-8 PM; April 28, 10 AM-12 PM; April 29, 9 AM-3 PM
  • Register: The Multilingual and Immigrant Family Conference and Resource Fair is a 3-day event from April 27 through April 29, 2023. It celebrates multilingualism, multiculturalism, and our diverse communities. There will be virtual workshops on April 27 and April 28. There will be in-person events on April 29 at the Intrepid Museum. Attend workshops, watch guest speakers, see great performances, and meet other families from across NYC! If you are among the first 100 people to arrive on April 29, you will receive a free voucher to visit the Intrepid simulators. Read this flyer for more details. Register using this form by April 18.

Title: Conoce Tus Derechos/Know Your Rights (Spanish)

  • Date: June 1, 2023
  • Time: 5:00-6:00 PM
  • Language: Spanish
  • Register using this form.
  • Summary: Families will understand the resources available to their child at colleges and universities to support them academically, socially, and emotionally. Gain strategies to support their child in advocating for themselves when navigating college.

We Did it. And You Can Do It, Too!

Many multilingual and immigrant students go to college and on to pursue a career in New York City. Below are three stories about real immigrant families in New York City and how they navigated high school and pursued their postsecondary journey.

Their stories are unique, but they all have three things in common:

  1. Get a team of people around you to help your family. It is not easy to get ready for college. You don’t have to do it alone. Can you think of two or three friends or family members who can help you? Your friends don’t need to know a lot about college. Their job is to listen to you, help you do small things, and be your friend so you don’t have to try to do everything alone.
  2. Visit some colleges with your child to learn about them. You can learn a lot about the American system of colleges by visiting a few colleges and asking questions. Most students who go to college visit a few colleges when they are still in high school. You can visit a college with your child to tell them: “This is where you belong.”
  3. Ask for help for your child. Everyone who goes to college gets help and advice to get there. But, you have to ask for it. Sometimes, it is not easy to ask for help when you do not speak the language. But, you have to do it. Your child’s guidance counselor is a good person to start with. They can help you navigate the college selection, application, and financial aid processes.

Tashi and Nyima

My name is Tashi. My daughter, Nyima, is 18 years old. She wants to go to college. When Nyima began speaking about college, I didn’t know what to think. At home, Nyima is so shy. She doesn’t speak English well. She doesn’t get good grades in high school. I didn’t think college was a good idea. I thought that college is too expensive. We don’t have money for college. When she finishes high school, she should help her family more.

Gather a Team

Nyima asked me to come to her school one day to speak to the guidance counselor. I took some time off work to go with her. The school sent someone to translate our meeting into my language so I could understand and talk in my own language.

The guidance counselor told us that college would help Nyima get a better job. She can make more money in the future. But, we need the money now. I didn’t understand how Nyima could spend two or three years at college and not help the family. The guidance counselor said she thought college would be good for Nyima. She talked about how families make a few more years of sacrifice so their children can have a better life. “It’s worth it,” she said.

But, how can I pay for college? I work hard and make enough money to feed my family. But, I don’t have the kind of money you need to pay for college. It is too expensive.

The guidance counselor told us there is money to help immigrant parents pay for college. Last year, a friend of Nyima’s school got $5,000 for college. And some other students got even more money. They got the money from the government. They only had to fill out some forms. Now they can go to college. They were all immigrants like Nyima.

I had no idea. I thought that college was very expensive. I didn’t know that you can get help paying for college. The guidance counselor said that a lot of immigrant students get help from the government. And some get even more help from the college they choose. There are also scholarships that Nyima could search for and apply to, especially if she has really good grades. The guidance counselor said she would help us search for scholarships that Nyima is eligible to apply for.

It sounded pretty good. It was better than I thought. But, then the guidance counselor gave us some bad news. She showed me a paper with a list of all the classes that Nyima has taken in high school. The guidance counselor explained that Nyima is pretty far behind in her classes. It will take her two more years to graduate.

Two more years? I was very surprised, but I didn’t say anything. Why didn’t she have enough credits? What was she doing? I know that it is not Nyima’s fault. The woman gave also gave us another option and a list of places that have General Education Development/High School Equivalency classes to show us our options. She said studying for the General Education Development/High School Equivalency is different from high school. It is like a second chance. A lot of young adults like Nyima do better in General Education Development/High School Equivalency classes. It doesn’t feel like high school. The General Education Development/High School Equivalency program is smaller and everybody knows you. And, Nyima can still go to college after she takes her General Education Development/High School Equivalency classes.

Coming to this country was hard on her. Everything is so different. Learning English is not easy. I know that it takes time. But, how can she go to school for another two years? She is 18 years old. The guidance counselor said that my daughter has the right to a free education until she is 21 years old. And when she turns 21, she can finish the school year. She said we should take advantage of this opportunity.

The guidance counselor said that immigrants who need to learn English sometimes need more time to graduate. I asked if there is extra help for Nyima to do better in her classes. The guidance counselor said there is. But, Nyima needs to work hard and study more. She should not work as many hours at her job.

OK, maybe Nyima can graduate from high school. But, she wants to go to college. How can Nyima go to college? She is having trouble in high school. Her English is not so good. The guidance counselor said that Nyima is a smart girl. She can do well in college. But, she needs more time to do all her high school classes. And she needs time to practice her English more.

Learn about Colleges

I listened to the guidance counselor. But, I wasn’t sure that college was a good idea for Nyima. That is when the guidance counselor told us to go visit a college to see what it is like. She told us the names of two colleges we could go look at. You can go see the college campus with all its buildings and classrooms. You can find out what it is like to be a student there.

The next day, I told Nyima that we should visit a college campus. Nyima used a computer at school to sign up for a free tour of one of the colleges. A few weeks later, we went to the college for our free campus tour. It was Saturday morning. The college was not very far from our home.

Ask for Help

A student from the college showed us around. He was the first person in his family to go to college. He said that his parents had no money to send him to school. But, he got a lot of help from the government. Now, his family can pay for college. He also said that he got extra help when he started college. There is a great program at the college called “College Discovery.” It helps students who don’t have a lot of money. They give you extra help with your classes. And they also give you free MetroCards and other things. I think Nyima will need that.

Nyima asked a few questions. They were good questions. I had never seen her talk in public. She spoke well. Her English wasn’t too bad. She sounded like a smart young woman. I think that college will help Nyima become more confident. She will learn a lot, but she will still be part of our family. I can see that my daughter belongs in college.


My name is Alcee. I come from Africa and I am going to college. When I was younger, my parents wanted me to go to college. But, they didn’t know about the American system. They didn’t go to college back home. And they didn’t speak English. We had no idea what to do first.

Gather a Team

When I was in Grade 11, my science teacher helped me out. I did well in his class. My dad always told me that I was good in math and science. When classes got hard, he said that I was smart enough for any class. He said that lots of girls are good at science. But, they have to believe in themselves.

Learn about Colleges

My science teacher believed in me. He told me about a program at our school that lets you take college classes while you are still in high school. It’s called College Now. You go to a college after school or on Saturday and you take a real college class. After your class, you can go to the library or hang out at the student cafeteria. She said they give you a college ID with your picture on it.

It sounded really cool to me. But, your grades have to be good. And you need good scores on the Regents. My grades are pretty good, but my test scores are not great. I didn’t think that I could get into the program. But, my teacher told me to apply. So, I did.

I got into the program. I took my first College Now class at Hunter College in Manhattan with about 20 other high school students.

I had never heard of Hunter College, but it was easy to get to by subway. I took a nutrition class. It was hard. We had to read a lot. But, I liked the teacher. She told me that I will do well in college. But, I need to take more English classes to improve my writing.

After my nutrition class, I took a computer class. I didn’t know much about computers. But, I liked the class a lot. The other students were really smart. We had fun hanging out together. And we learned a lot. Now I know how to use a few computer programs and I can make my own website.

I was lucky to be in College Now because not all high schools have it. I took two college classes for free! Those are two classes that I don’t have to take and pay for when I get to college.

I told my guidance counselor how much I liked College Now. She told me about a special class at our school to help students get ready for college called “College Club.” The College Club taught me so much! It helped me do everything you need to do to apply to college. I don’t know how anyone can get to college without a class like that one. I was lucky that my high school had that class. Some of my friends went to high schools that didn’t have a College Club. I wish they had it, too.

College Club started with the SAT exam. Our teacher explained what it is and why colleges want you to take it. I took the SAT exam once and did not do well. Our teacher showed us how to study for it. I studied a lot at home for that exam. I took the SAT a second time. I did better the second time, but not great.

Ask for Help

Then, I learned that immigrants can get money from the government to pay for college. My family needs help paying for college. We have no money. My teacher gave each of us the government form that everyone who wants help paying for college has to fill out. It is called the “FAFSA” (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You can do it online if you have a social security number. We spent a long time filling out the FAFSA in class. It was hard. I had to get some papers from my parents. And I had to wait for them to pay their taxes in January. When I finished filling out the FAFSA, we had to wait a long time to hear back.

My College Club showed us how to find good colleges. We spent a lot of time looking at colleges on the internet. We learned about community colleges that are cheaper and easier to get into than four-year colleges. They last for only two years, if you go to school full-time. We learned about the City University of New York. It has community colleges and four-year colleges all around the City. They are friendly to immigrants.

I wanted to go to Hunter College because I went there for my College Now classes. But, my teacher told me to find a few other schools that I like because I might not get into Hunter. Or I might find a school that I like better. Our class had books that listed many colleges and told us which subjects they are good at. The books also told us how much each school costs. And, they told us how hard each school would be to get into.

My high school grades were good enough for some schools I looked at. But, they were not good enough for other schools. My SAT scores were too low for some colleges I liked. But, my teacher told me that I am much more than my grades and test scores. She told me that I can talk about my strengths on the college application.

My teacher took us all on a college tour one Saturday morning. A college student showed us around. I learned a lot about the school. Some of my friends liked the school. But, I didn’t like it. I thought it was not very friendly. It was too small and nobody from my country goes there. I liked Hunter College better.

I was sure that I wanted to go to Hunter. But, I found two other schools that I liked. I decided to apply to all three colleges. I had to do three different applications online. But, the applications were pretty much the same. And my teacher showed us how to practice filling out the application on paper before doing the real thing online.

The most important part of the college application is the personal essay. You have to write it in English and you have to make it good. So, for me, it was the hardest part. We all spent a lot of time writing our essays. My teacher told me that my life story was interesting and my culture is important. I have to talk about that in my essay. I worked hard on it.

After I applied to three colleges and filled out my FAFSA, it was a long wait. But, then I got the good news. I got into Hunter. And my family got $6,000 in financial aid from the government. It’s almost enough to pay for my first year of college. I was so happy!