We need resources for prospective DACA students

Neha Dronamraju

Applying to college is stressful. In the midst of tests, papers, jobs and coming to terms with the beginning of adulthood, students have to plan their futures — a daunting task for any young adult. 

Imagine if that task were complicated by a precarious citizenship status jeopardizing the education your future hinged on. 

In September 2017, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by March 5, 2018. Although we still have DACA, conversations about its termination serve as a constant reminder to 800,000 recipients that their opportunities in the United States could be withdrawn at any time.

The college application process for DACA students can be overwhelming and nuanced, and DACA students could benefit from specialized guidance when applying. To meet this need, UT’s Office of Admissions should offer specialized information sessions to help students with DACA status complete their application to UT. 

For José Martínez, a Plan II and economics freshman, a DACA status meant unequal opportunity during the college application process. 

Although Martínez grew up in a supportive environment and attended a school that encouraged college attendance, he found himself navigating most of the application process by himself.

“Mostly you just have to self-learn,” Martínez said. “It can be confusing at times, but one of my goals was to make the process as less financially burdensome as possible for my parents, so I was willing to do whatever I could.” 

According to Kendall Slagle, content strategist at the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, Texas state law mandates that universities refrain from asking students about their immigration status. 

“All of our sessions provide information for any student, regardless of their immigration status, to learn about and apply to UT-Austin,” Slagle said in an email.

But the Admissions Council doesn’t need to ask students about their immigration status. Students can choose to attend specialized information sessions to ask questions related to their status.

The current generic information sessions are not enough to level the playing field for DACA students during application season. One of the many concerns that is not thoroughly addressed in those information sessions is applying for financial aid with DACA status. 

“Finding scholarships was the biggest challenge,” Martínez said. “I can’t apply to a lot of them because I’m DACA. And not just through the University — there are a lot of outside scholarships that I could have done well in, but you have to be a citizen or at least a permanent resident.”

According to Martínez, UT offers helpful resources including non-resident specific scholarships. He recognizes that his supportive educational environment and consequent initiative are privileges that many DACA students don’t have. UT still has work to do to connect DACA students to available resources. 

Information sessions are an effective way to share these resources. Prospective applicants attend them, eager to learn and embark on their higher education journeys. Events that encourage students to attend college should be catered to all students — not just citizens. 

By offering such info sessions, UT would be supporting DACA students through the first major obstacle in their professional lives.  

Dronamraju is a public health freshman from Dallas.