College Information for Immigrant Students

Your child can go to college. All immigrants can go to college in New York, even undocumented students.

Applying to U.S. Colleges

  • All colleges require a high school diploma or a GED/HSE diploma. Good grades in high school will help your child when applying to colleges and when applying to scholarships.
  • When your child finishes college, your child will graduate with a degree. There are different kinds of college degrees. The most common degrees are Bachelor’s Degree for a four-year college and Associate’s Degree for a two-year college; also known as “Community Colleges”. Visit the College Board's Big Future website to learn more about the different types of degrees.
  • City University of New York (CUNY) is an immigrant friendly institution and is a great place to begin your child’s college search, especially for undocumented students. To learn about other CUNY services for immigrant students visit CUNY's Immigrant Services web page.
  • There also many certificate programs in NYC. Talk to your child about these different options. Meet with your school counselor to help your family make plan for your child.

Financial Help for Immigrant Students

Help your Child Get to College

Get a team of people to help your family. It is not easy to get ready for college. You do not have to do it alone. Think of family members, friends, school counselors, teachers and members of your community that can help. And be sure to:

  • Visit colleges with your child to learn about them.
  • Attend meetings at your child’s school and ask for help for your child.
  • Ask your child about their career dreams, you can help them influence their career choices.
  • Meet with your child's counselor to help your child plan for their future.
  • If you do not speak English, you can call your child’s school to ask for an interpreter. Interpretation services are available in 200 languages. If you have questions or feedback about the language services at your school, call 718- 935-2013 or email hello@schools.nyc.gov. For sign language interpretation services, contact your parent coordinator or the Office of Sign Language Interpreting Services at 212-802- 1500, ext. 7181.

A Family Story

Read the story below to learn about how one of our NYC families helped their children learn about college and careers.

Isabel and Maria

My name is Isabel. In a few years, my daughter will go to college. I have always been involved in my children’s education. It is one of the reasons why we came to this country. I wanted to provide my children with a good education. I read to them every day when they were young. I helped them with their homework. I went to meet with their teachers.

It was hard for me to guide my oldest daughter, Maria. When she was 12 or 13 years old, she started asking me many questions about her future. She wanted to know about so many different jobs. I work in a restaurant and she wanted to learn about architecture, science, and business. I wanted my daughter to dream big, but I didn’t know much about these things.

Then, Maria began asking me about college. I thought it was too early to think about college but, I did not tell her that. I wanted Maria to have her own ideas; however, I did not know the answers to her questions. Luckily, I have three good friends who helped us find answers. They helped us get ready for college.

My friend Carmen met with Maria to help her think about her future. Carmen listened to Maria talk about what she liked to do and what she didn’t like to do. Carmen asked Maria about her favorite classes and what kinds of activities she enjoyed outside of school. Carmen and Maria talked about jobs Maria would be happy doing. After my daughter met with Carmen, she was more self confident. She had more ideas about what she wanted in a job and what she did not want.

Another friend of mine, Angela, told me I can get a free interpreter when I go to my daughter’s school. Sometimes there is nobody at the school who speaks Spanish. Angela told me that I can ask for someone to translate for me. I can ask for someone to translate for me during parent-teacher conferences and when I go talk with the school counselor. Every school can help immigrant parents understand what is being said in English. You just have to ask for help.

Angela also taught us about going to the library to learn about careers and colleges. The people who work at the library showed us a book about college and jobs. The book was about what to study in college to get the job you want. The library also had a book that listed all the colleges in New York. We read about the City University of New York. It has many colleges across the city and does not cost a lot of money.

My other friend who helped us is named Carlos. He works for a travel agency. He let Maria come to his job every Monday after school for a few months. Maria met all the people in his office. She learned about what they do at work. She saw that some people loved their job and some people do not. While working with Carlos, Maria asked him many questions, she learned how to answer the telephone, and greet people when they come into the office. Carlos told Maria, that she can talk about this experience on her college application.

My friends were a great team! They came to this country and worked hard to have a good life. They care about their community very much. They are good role models for my children and have helped us get ready for college.

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