Should I Come Out As Undocumented in My Personal Statement? (Part 1 of 2)
Email [email protected] and we’ll add them here.
Okay, let’s check in: How are you feeling at this point? Which way are you leaning?
If you’re feeling like you shouldn’t, then don’t. That’s it. Just don’t. Find another story to tell. You are brilliant and complex and have so many stories to tell. (And by the way if you just felt relief reading that, it could be a sign.)
Or maybe you’re feeling like you do want them to know, but you don’t want this to be Like Your Main Thing (as in: you don’t want this to define you). In this case, you might consider revealing your status elsewhere, like in your:
And bee tee dubs: If you want your counselor to mention your status, you definitely have to let your counselor know this in an explicit way. As in: “Dr. Gilbert: Can you do me a favor and talk about my undocumented status in my recommendation letter?”
Why might you do this? Some students just feel uncomfortable talking about it, or want their main essay to be about something else, but they still want colleges to know.
Why do you need to do this in an explicit way? Because (think about it) no counselor is gonna’ share your status without your permission. If so, that person should probably be fired.
If you’ve read this far and you’re still not sure, and maybe want to talk it through with someone, here are a few options:
If you’re leaning towards yes, then go to Part 2 of this article, How to Come Out As Undocumented in Your Personal Statement, which will show you how.
I asked Daishi Tanaka, an undocumented student who’s currently a sophomore at Harvard, why he decided to reveal his status in his main essay, and here’s what he said:
Primarily it was because being undocumented was a huge part of my personal story… but also… I knew that the admissions officer who was reading all these applications must want to see different perspectives… and must want students who can provide these unique experiences to contribute to their campus. So, although throughout my life I always thought that being undocumented was something that held [me] back, in this circumstance it was a way to push me forward.
Side note: click here to listen to the full interview; the part I’m quoting comes in around 50:40.
Is this decision right for you? And will it definitely get you into Harvard? (Spoiler: No.)
For those interested, here are some more questions to ask when it comes to evaluating colleges:
Does the application ask for a social security number?
If a student does not have a social security number should they use zeros or leave it blank?
Does the application have an appropriate “box” for an undocumented student on the section that asks about citizenship?
If a student does not/cannot answer all of the questions on the on-line application will it be submitted or do they need to complete a paper application?
Can a student submit an on-line application if they are using a fee waiver?
Applying for financial aid and scholarships
Does the institution require all applicants, even those who are undocumented, to complete a FAFSA in order to be considered for private or institutional scholarships?
Will the institution accept the College Board CSS Profile or an institutional form in lieu of the FAFSA?
What other forms must be completed?
Does the major require a background check?
Does the major lead to certification or state licensure for which an undocumented student might be ineligible?
Are advisors and career development staff aware of these issues?