This study examines college access among undocumented students in Elkhart County, Indiana to understand how institutional actors are responding to revelations of their legal status. Using data from 39 life history interviews, we demonstrate how undocumented students’ transition to college can hinge on the extent to which students are deemed deserving or undeserving by institutional actors. Also, participants seek out resources for reaching college through resisting abrupt abandonment by seeking alternative sources of support to ensure their transition to college. We argue that undocumented students are much more active in this process than tends to come across in previous research.
Institutional actors—teachers, counselors, or college administrators—can constrain or facilitate undocumented student’s transitions to college at various points.
Institutional actors in new immigrant communities tend to lack resources and information needed to meet the college going needs of undocumented students.
When denied access or overlooked during the pursuit of higher education, undocumented students are agentic and seek out resources elsewhere.