The Challenge

Each year, about 65,000 undocumented students who have been in the United States for more than five or more years graduate from high schools all around the country. Applying to college is a stressful and confusing time for all, let alone as an undocumented student. Being undocumented presents unique challenges that are compounded by the fact that no two institutions have the same policy on admissions and financial aid for undocumented students.

While there are disparate resources online for undocumented students, there is no comprehensive resource that gathers the relevant information for undocumented students in this important stage in their lives. Moreover, many resources are understandably written for undocumented students in specific states. Higher Dreams is a website devoted to serve the unmet needs of all undocumented students applying to college, written from the perspective of an undocumented student who has been through the process.

HD is also a network of undocumented college students and education professionals with the goal of facilitating communication among the undocumented student community. The forum serves as a platform for undocumented students to ask questions anonymously that may not have been addressed in other areas of the site. We hope that this approach would individualize the vastly complex college admissions process, and allow students to address questions or concerns unique to themselves or their situations.

The Mission

We believe that equitable access to higher education is a fundamental right. We recognize the unique challenges that exist for undocumented students applying to college, and address these unmet needs in two ways: 1) a comprehensive review of the college admissions system from the perspective of an undocumented student and 2) a network of students advancing equitable higher education for undocumented students.

The Team

Executive Director: Jin Park

I am a student at Harvard College studying life science and philosophy. HD was first conceived after I had finished my college application process. As an undocumented student, it was very difficult to navigate an already intricate system; I knew that there were resources online, but I felt that a website that synthesized all of these resources and also provided personalized insight would have been invaluable for me as I was applying to college. This organization is a product of the hard work of both the HD team and the countless others who have been a constant source of unwavering support throughout my life. I hope that Higher Dreams serves as a helpful resource for undocumented high school students pursuing higher education.

Director of Technology: James Baskerville

I’m a Harvard student from Northern California, and I’m studying Computer Science and Music. For U.S. citizens, applying for colleges is an incredibly stressful and demanding undertaking. Since coming to college and meeting many new people, including Jin, I’ve realized that it’s much more difficult for undocumented students. Jin’s story and vision continue to inspire me, and I’m committed to Higher Dreams and its mission to help others in his position through the college application process.

Director of Media: Javier Cuan-Martinez

I am currently a student at Harvard College studying computer science, but I am also a DREAMer who has the blessing to continue his studies and receive higher education. Being undocumented has hindered me from improving myself as a person and in helping my family. One nightmare was applying to Colleges during high school, because undocumented students were not eligible to receive financial aid from the government via the FAFSA. The anxiety that both my family and I felt from having to conceal our status for so long, and feeling ostracized from society to such a large degree was traumatizing, and I wish to help as many young students as possible break free from the strain that shackles an undocumented student. Everyone deserves access to higher education, regardless of what papers (or lack thereof) one has.

Director of Finance: J. Roscoe Wasserburg

I grew up in the Bronx and I am currently enrolled at McGill University, pursuing a double major in sociology and cell/molecular biology. My goal with Higher Dreams is to to assist students achieve higher education by providing them with the tools necessary to succeed.

Director of Outreach: Tatiana Patino

I am a first-year student at Harvard College studying English with the intention of entering the field education upon graduation. I am originally from Colombia. My family moved here when I was four years old, and I lived in Atlanta until this year when I came to live in Cambridge. Applying to school in Georgia proved to be a challenge since their immigration policies do not allow undocumented students to even apply to the top five public universities in the state. Through my own application process, I learned the ins and outs of applying to college as an undocumented student, and  I would like to help other students navigate the college application process.

Director of Resource Development: Jenny Gao

I am currently a Junior at New York University studying Biology. I believe that a student’s education and passion shouldn’t be hindered simply because of his immigration status. Although there are many college application resources, many of them do not focus solely on undocumented students. Oftentimes, school counselors may not know specifically how to help their undocumented students, simply because the group is so unique. In addition, family members are likely to be unfamiliar with the college system and be unable to help. Therefore, I can understand the frustration many undocumented students may feel when they apply for colleges. I hope that Higher Dreams can resolve many of the questions students have, and guide them through their college application process.