College-Career Readiness for English Language Learners

Your Child Can Thrive in the Career or College They Want!

Postsecondary access is more important than ever, and the New York City Department of Education is here to ensure our multilingual Learners and immigrant students thrive in their future career. We are here to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college, the modern workforce, and life in a global society. Your child has the right to access opportunities that will help them reach economic security, a fulfilling career trajectory, and joy as they mature into adulthood. Here are some tips and resources you can use to support your child on their journey.

Know Your Rights

In New York, all multilingual learners and immigrant students can attend college, including undocumented students. Also in New York, colleges and public schools are prohibited from inquiring about and reporting the immigration status of their students.

You should also know that you are not alone in this journey and building a support network is key to learning about different career pathways and college environments. You can get support from your school’s trusted teachers and school counselors. You and your child can think through a variety of questions to ask school staff, have follow-up meetings for progress, and advocate for the needs of your child.

Know Your Community

You are your child’s biggest champion. Always affirm their identity, encourage them to hold on to their home language, and expose them to the dynamic ways immigrants have shaped NYC. In addition to you and the community in your school, there are communities outside of your child’s school that want to help our multilingual and immigrant students succeed. Identify Community-Based Organizations that are committed to supporting NYC’s linguistically, racially, and culturally diverse students. Help your child find active ways to be involved in their community and familiarize yourself with advocacy groups to have as your support team.

Know Your Options

It's never too early to start thinking about college and career options. Visit the College and Career Planning page to learn more about how you can assist your child in planning for their future no matter what grade they are in.

Deciding what to explore while in high school as well as what to do after graduation can be difficult. This may be the first time that your child is required to start thinking about different educational choices, explore career options, and make such major decisions regarding their own life. Encourage your child to participate in work-based learning such as volunteering, job shadowing, and internships. Ask your school’s counselor about dual enrollment programs such as College Now and Advanced Placement that help your child potentially access college credits while in high school. Identify the multiple ways to fund your child’s future postsecondary plans such as scholarships opened to immigrant students and additional ways to pay for college.

We Did it. And You Can Do It, Too!

Many multilingual and immigrant students go to college and pursue a career in New York City. Below are three stories about real immigrant families in New York City and how they navigated high school and pursued their postsecondary journey.

Their stories are unique, but they all have two things in common:

  1. Get a team of people around you to help your family. It is not easy to get ready for college. You don’t have to do it alone. Can you think of two or three friends or family members who can help you? Your friends don’t need to know a lot about college. Their job is to listen to you, help you do small things, and be your friend so you don’t have to try to do everything alone. 
  2. Ask for help. Everyone who goes to college gets help and advice to get there. But, you have to ask for it. Sometimes, it is not easy to ask for help when you do not speak the language. But, you have to do it. Your guidance counselor is a good person to start with. They can help you navigate the college selection, application, and financial aid processes. Even if they do not have the information they will point you to the right direction. 


My name is Mahir, and I was an undocumented immigrant when I applied for college. Now I am a senior at CUNY. As a returning immigrant ambassador for high school students, I am passionate about helping students achieve their postsecondary goals.

Gather a team 

I have a team of 4 wonderful women: my guidance counselor from my high school, the librarian, my Spanish teacher, and my chemistry teacher. They all went out of their way to help me. Because of my immigration status at the time, it was challenging for me to apply for college and financial aid. My guidance counselor attended different info sessions to explore my options. She also searched for opportunities for financial aid for undocumented students so I could pay for my education. 

My guidance counselor created a spreadsheet with all the majors I am interested in and the colleges (both public and private) that offer these majors. My team made sure I visited some college campuses in person to “get a feel for them”. I was able to make these visits thanks to sponsorship from some private colleges.

During the application season, my guidance counselor created an application checklist for me, and we checked off the tasks on a weekly basis.

Ask for help 

Being an immigrant, I understand that in American culture, you always need to take the initiative and ask for help. Fortunately, this is not a problem for me. Whenever I felt I needed help, I approached my team and told them about my hopes and dreams, and I was very candid about the kind of help I needed. 


My name is Soto. I came to the United States at the age of 5. I was an undocumented student, and I lost my vision during the year 2020.

Gather a team 

Because, at the time, in my senior year, I was both undocumented and nearly blind, I never thought college was an option for me. I considered my mom, my school counselor, and my Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI) to be the people on my team to guide me through. 

Even though my mom did not have much information about college, she supported me throughout the process by offering emotional comfort.

After I became disabled, I got to know other members of the disabled community. They are in all kinds of career paths, and they are doing anything they want to do. Then I tell myself, I need to flip the coin! If other people can do what they want, I can too. I want to go to college because college is about exploration, discovery, and finding out who you are, and who you can be.

Due to my undocumented status and my physical disabilities, my school guidance counselor at the time did not have too much extra support to offer. But they connected me with an organization called UnLocal that could help students like me get into college.

People at UnLocal helped me through the process of applying for CUNY and the Dream Act in just 2 days. I got into CUNY Queens College. 

Ask for help 

I was not used to asking for help before I lost my vision. However, after this happened, my mentality changed. Now that I am at the intersection of being both undocumented and having disabilities, I need to have strong advocacy skills for myself. For example, when I first lost my vision, the services I received were very minimal, and I still hesitated to speak up. However, when I saw people in the same community advocate and speak up for themselves, I wanted to do the same. Once I started to ask for more help, slowly but surely, the wheel turned. 

Tashi and Nyima

My name is Tashi. My daughter, Nyima, is 18 years old. She wants to go to college. When Nyima began speaking about college, I didn’t know what to think. At home, Nyima is so shy. She doesn’t speak English well. She doesn’t get good grades in high school. I didn’t think college was a good idea. I thought that college is too expensive. We don’t have money for college. When she finishes high school, she should help her family more.

Gather a Team

Nyima asked me to come to her school one day to speak to the guidance counselor. I took some time off work to go with her. The school sent someone to translate our meeting into my language so I could understand and talk in my own language.

The guidance counselor told us that college would help Nyima get a better job. She can make more money in the future. But, we need the money now. I didn’t understand how Nyima could spend two or three years at college and not help the family. The guidance counselor said she thought college would be good for Nyima. She talked about how families make a few more years of sacrifice so their children can have a better life. “It’s worth it,” she said.

But, how can I pay for college? I work hard and make enough money to feed my family. But, I don’t have the kind of money you need to pay for college. It is too expensive.

The guidance counselor told us there is money to help immigrant parents pay for college. Last year, a friend of Nyima’s school got $5,000 for college. And some other students got even more money. They got the money from the government. They only had to fill out some forms. Now they can go to college. They were all immigrants like Nyima.

I had no idea. I thought that college was very expensive. I didn’t know that you can get help paying for college. The guidance counselor said that a lot of immigrant students get help from the government. And some get even more help from the college they choose. There are also scholarships that Nyima could search for and apply to, especially if she has really good grades. The guidance counselor said she would help us search for scholarships that Nyima is eligible to apply for.

It sounded pretty good. It was better than I thought. But, then the guidance counselor gave us some bad news. She showed me a paper with a list of all the classes that Nyima has taken in high school. The guidance counselor explained that Nyima is pretty far behind in her classes. It will take her two more years to graduate.

Two more years? I was very surprised, but I didn’t say anything. Why didn’t she have enough credits? What was she doing? I know that it is not Nyima’s fault. The woman gave also gave us another option and a list of places that have General Education Development/High School Equivalency classes to show us our options. She said studying for the General Education Development/High School Equivalency is different from high school. It is like a second chance. A lot of young adults like Nyima do better in General Education Development/High School Equivalency classes. It doesn’t feel like high school. The General Education Development/High School Equivalency program is smaller and everybody knows you. And, Nyima can still go to college after she takes her General Education Development/High School Equivalency classes.

Coming to this country was hard on her. Everything is so different. Learning English is not easy. I know that it takes time. But, how can she go to school for another two years? She is 18 years old. The guidance counselor said that my daughter has the right to a free education until she is 21 years old. And when she turns 21, she can finish the school year. She said we should take advantage of this opportunity.

The guidance counselor said that immigrants who need to learn English sometimes need more time to graduate. I asked if there is extra help for Nyima to do better in her classes. The guidance counselor said there is. But, Nyima needs to work hard and study more. She should not work as many hours at her job.

OK, maybe Nyima can graduate from high school. But, she wants to go to college. How can Nyima go to college? She is having trouble in high school. Her English is not so good. The guidance counselor said that Nyima is a smart girl. She can do well in college. But, she needs more time to do all her high school classes. And she needs time to practice her English more.

Learn about Colleges

I listened to the guidance counselor. But, I wasn’t sure that college was a good idea for Nyima. That is when the guidance counselor told us to go visit a college to see what it is like. She told us the names of two colleges we could go look at. You can go see the college campus with all its buildings and classrooms. You can find out what it is like to be a student there.

The next day, I told Nyima that we should visit a college campus. Nyima used a computer at school to sign up for a free tour of one of the colleges. A few weeks later, we went to the college for our free campus tour. It was Saturday morning. The college was not very far from our home.

Ask for Help

A student from the college showed us around. He was the first person in his family to go to college. He said that his parents had no money to send him to school. But, he got a lot of help from the government. Now, his family can pay for college. He also said that he got extra help when he started college. There is a great program at the college called “College Discovery.” It helps students who don’t have a lot of money. They give you extra help with your classes. And they also give you free MetroCards and other things. I think Nyima will need that.

Nyima asked a few questions. They were good questions. I had never seen her talk in public. She spoke well. Her English wasn’t too bad. She sounded like a smart young woman. I think that college will help Nyima become more confident. She will learn a lot, but she will still be part of our family. I can see that my daughter belongs in college.