Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Illegal aliens-Education (Higher), Illegal aliens-Psychology, Resilience (Personality trait), Undocumented, Student, Resilience, Education


The purpose of this qualitative research study is to explore undocumented students perspectives of their experiences on their pathways to accessing higher education-the many obstacles they encounter and their resilience in facing these obstacles to pursue their educations. The complexities of these students experiences—living in the United States undocumented, their process of navigating the American education system and how this shapes how they perceive themselves and their life path--were examined through the narratives of six students who were enrolled in higher education, or planning to attend. The findings of this research showed that the unique psychosocial stressors undocumented students face--poverty, invisibility, isolation stigma, inadequate preparation for college, limited employment opportunities, and lack of awareness and recognition of their status by educators--posed as risk factors for short term mental health issues and decreased the propensity of attaining higher education. Social support from family and friends, connection with a trusted and knowledgeable teacher or counselor and participation in social activism were primary determinants of resiliency for these students. Implications of this study include suggestions on programs, policies and services that students, educators, social workers and government officials can implement to better meet the needs of the undocumented population and help them advance to higher education.




iii, 98 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 86-89)