Juan is an illegal alien who’s been in the U.S. since age 7. A really, really smart one, apparently, because he’s been accepted to some really tough colleges and been offered big scholarships.
Problem is, he can’t take any government money because he’s not an American citizen. Thus, he’s in quite the pickle.
Hello Judge Josh,
First off let me thank you for your continuous blog posts. They are quite nice and I do enjoy them.
My question is should I go to college this fall? It is as simple and complicated as that.
Hmmm. Tell me more.
Here is my situation. I immigrated to the United States from México at the age of seven. I am now eighteen and I am still completely undocumented. This spring I graduated from the best high school in my state however being an illegal alien has essentially crippled my entire academic career.
I missed out on summer internships, student exchange trips, and ofcourse had to deal with the social burden that came from knowing that my peers knew about my situation. However the biggest setback came last year when I got a full ride scholarship to an amazing engineering school only to last minute read the fine print and find out that being a legal resident was one of the requirements.
Ouch. Talk about a gut-punch.
What made that situation worse was that earlier in the year I had gotten a near stress fracture in my right knee meaning all of the money I would have racked up from athletic scholarships for XC/track was also gone.
And, a second gut punch.
When college acceptance letters came in I was in the worst possible situation. I was smart enough to get into Harvey Mudd/Rose Hulman and such but fell short of getting into Stanford/MIT where they would meet full need. As an undocumented student I cannot receive any money from the government. I can only receive merit scholarships from private universities and private scholarships.
Gotcha. I’m hatching a plan as we speak.
Currently I am planning to attend an out of state engineering school. It is a good school and they did their best with merit based scholarships and It would cost $22.000 a year to attend.
Damn. That’s a pretty big chunk of change to be shelling out for a guy who got into Harvey Mudd. Which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a small math/engineering school in California whose entry requirements are astronomical. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can say you aced both the verbal and math SAT and immediately have seven people at the same lunch table roll their eyes and say, “well yeah, so did I.”
I would either attend for four years and get a double major and one minor or for five years and obtain a masters and a double major. However, I do not know if it is worth it to go to college.
I’m not sure if you want to do that $22k/year thing, but yes, I think you should still go to college. We’ll get to that in a second, though.
As of now I have no real reason to believe that my legal status should change within the next four years.
I am no authority whatsoever on the likelihood of this happening, either. From nothing more than a personal standpoint as someone who is reasonably up to speed on current affairs, my opinion is that immigration issues will come to a head in the next 2-4 years, reform of some kind will pass, and that reform will include some type of amnesty. I also think amnesty will be given first to guys like you — people who moved here as children and have lived their entire lives, basically, in the U.S.
Having said that, no one on earth can predict this. It’s a political issue, so it’s going to be decided by national politicians, who will largely ignore any sense of what’s wrong or right (because they have no such sense) and act in their own best interests at all costs. So…I guess that’s all I have to say about that part of it.
The thought of four years from now standing with a diploma in hand telling myself “well at least I tried” is simply unbearable. Not only that but if I start working now I can make $24.000 a year. Assuming I save $12.500 a year it would mean that going to college and the end of four years would cost me $130.000. Money that I would never get back if I don’t get a real job. Since I cannot take out student loans most of the money would come from my parents. Money for which they have worked hard over the years with close to minimum wage salaries.
Agreed. Honestly, the whole “I’m going to work and save up enough money to pay for my college myself” is a route I almost never advise, because college costs are so high that it’s unrealistic in most cases.
If I do go to college and find a way to be legalized it would make my life perfect.
Probably not, but much better than it is now. 🙂
However, since the fifth grade I have been watching this situation unfold and each day I have woken up to the same situation. Now with tuition due in just over a month I feel as thought it might be time to finally fold and admit defeat.
Maybe in this particular battle, but not the entire war.
I don’t think I can be blamed for a poor effort just certain factors out my control have a led to a difficult situation.
Eh, blame is irrelevant IMHO. Let’s just focus on the situation at hand and figure out how to get you the best outcome.
I would retire a happy person I put in the effort and gave it a go. Still being the first in my finally to go college is still an enticing idea and I would love nothing else. With recent talk of the Dream Act it has kept my dying candle lit a bit longer.
So what should I do? Should I roll the dice and hope for skull eyes or just simply move on with my life and leave my worries behind me?
Well, have you ever considered just waiting a year before you go to school? The undeniable truth is that you’re going to have to settle for something less than your ideal situation because of your legal status — no question about that. But resist the temptation to just say “screw it all” and ditch the whole idea of college.
If you got into Harvey Mudd, then your test scores and qualifications have to be outlandishly good. They ought to qualify you for a full-ride scholarship at a private school somewhere for whom your status is not a deal-breaker.
Why don’t you take a year off, research some private schools that are still strong yet a bit less competitive than the Harvey Mudds of the world, and try to swing a full ride from one of those schools? That doesn’t seem unattainable.
Or, you could move to a different state — perhaps the one housing the school you’re currently planning to attend — and see if you can swing a) a full-ride from them, or b) even the same offer they’ve got for you now, except then you’ll be a resident and pay less tuition. (I’m assuming they’ll give you state resident status if you complete their requirements, even if you’re not a U.S. citizen. I admit, there are waaaaay too many issues at play here for me to know precisely what the hell I’m talking about).
Those two things seem like smarter routes, I think. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of commentary today from readers, so readers, listen up — please weigh in here if you have any knowledge or experience to add to the discussion. Or, of course, your regular comments.
And this seems crazy to have to say, but I’ve gotten a few emails along these lines from other illegal immigrants so I’ll say it: You can email me anything you want, as often as you want, and no, I will not share your name or email or anything else with the government (or anyone else, for that matter).