Together, the papers in this symposium examine the following broad questions: (1) What barriers to higher education do immigrant youth face? (2) What mechanisms and strategies help them overcome these obstacles? And (3) How do the institutional contexts associated with higher education condition these barriers, mechanisms, and strategies? We address these and other questions with particular attention to the cross-cutting impact of the policy environment (at federal, state, local, and organizational levels) and age-at-arrival.
Papers in this symposium highlight diversity among immigrant youth themselves, particularly their age at arrival. First-generation immigrants are broadly defined as individuals who were born abroad, but this symposium also explores higher education experiences of 1.5 generation immigrants (those who came before age 12) and 1.25 generation (those who came between ages 13 – 17). We explore the implications of age-at-arrival for a range of educational outcomes that may shape access to higher education, and the role of “gatekeepers” within higher education institutions who are positioned to help immigrant students navigate college.
The first two papers present the perspectives of immigrant youth on the transition from high school to higher education. These papers identify modes of help-seeking among different types of immigrant students and analyze the structural barriers that hinder them. These qualitative papers offer a textured understanding of the educational pathways through the lens of the youth themselves. The third paper pulls back the lens, using a national sample of immigrant youth to capture trends in their access to mental health services. This quantitative study invites a comparative perspective on help-seeking behavior for immigrant students relative to their native-born counterparts. The final paper looks at the delivery side of the help-seeking transaction, focusing specifically on how social work students understand the unique advising needs of undocumented immigrant students who are in a state where they are blocked from attending many public higher education institutions.