Why First- and Second-Generation Immigrants Are Stressed About College Applications

Constance Pimentel - Teen Aspect - September 23, 2022
(Smith, 2019)

College application season is known for being a constant source of stress for prospective college students worldwide. Between having to pick a university aptly suited for their needs and applying for financial aid, there are countless things that applicants must know to derive the best experience possible. However, it is significantly more difficult to effectively undergo this process when you have little to no prior knowledge of how or where to apply. This is a highly prevalent issue among first- and second-generation immigrants.

With no parental guidance, navigating an already complicated application process can be terrifying. For instance, Farooq, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, states “My parents came [to America] before they had me. They went to high school [in Pakistan], but that was it. Coming here was different; I think they had a culture shock and a shock in the education [differences] as well. They didn’t know much about elementary school, so I pretty much had to help myself,” Farooq said. [1] The American education system is one that is so unique when compared to others worldwide. It is absurd to expect people who have never experienced it to know what the proper procedure is, but this is simply one more way that the needs of immigrants are overlooked.

Fully funded programs should be established in order to teach first- and second-generation immigrants and their parents about the several different factors that go into creating a college list, as well as the various components of the applications. This would allow for an increase in immigrant acceptance and enrollment in American universities and would bring these families peace of mind knowing that they effectively navigated the process and picked the right environment for their children.

Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of the American college application system is not the sole concern regarding first and second-generation immigrants applying to universities. There is also the issue of financial aid. Due to the lack of financial aid opportunities for non-eligible noncitizens, many immigrant households cannot afford their children’s full tuition, therefore, discouraging them from applying at all. Naisha Roy, a non-eligible noncitizen states, “While the FAFSA is a key step in getting financial aid and grants for college, it’s also only available to immigrants with a Permanent Resident or ‘Green’ card, a T-1 immigration status, or other forms of immigration that allocate a social security number. These lucky immigrants are called ‘Eligible Non-Citizens,’ and they’ve earned the golden ticket to financial aid in this country. But for non-eligible non-citizens, this isn’t an option.” [2] Few universities extend their financial aid programs to non-eligible noncitizens or international students. Among the few that do are Brown University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University. [3] However, many of the universities that offer this aid are extremely difficult to get accepted to, creating another boundary between immigrants and a seamless transition to college. Federal financial aid is also inaccessible for many immigrant households as many families are comprised of non-eligible noncitizens.

With so many barriers inhibiting first and second-generation immigrants from easily applying to colleges, it is understandable why many immigrants shy away from the process as a whole. More consideration needs to be given to these immigrants so as to facilitate their exploration of life in the United States. Many immigrant families immigrate here for better opportunities, particularly in education and the workforce. However, when they arrive, they are greeted by so many obstacles to achieving their dreams which is why it is crucial for more universities to extend their financial aid to different kinds of immigrants and for college preparation programs to be implemented in the curriculum in high schools nationwide.


Albarcha, S., & Albarcha, S. (2020, January 27). The struggles of second-generation immigrants in the college application process. Pathfinder. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://pwestpathfinder.com/2020/01/27/the-struggles-of-second-generation-immigrants-in-the-college-application-process/

Roy, N. (2021, October 21). No Place Called Home: Tackling Immigrant struggles in the college application process. The Bird Feed. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://thebirdfeed.org/18695/opinions/no-place-called-home-tackling-immigrant-struggles-in-the-college-application-process/

US colleges that meet 100% of demonstrated need for undocumented and DACA students: College greenlight]. Compare Colleges & Research College Information. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://www.cappex.com/greenlight/articles/us-colleges-meet-need-undocumented-students

6 things undocumented students need to know about college. BigFuture. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/plan-for-college/own-your-future/6-things-undocumented-students-need-to-know-about-college

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