Seeking Access

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Using the Bowman role strain and adaptation model as a theoretical framework, this qualitative integrative literature review of undocumented students draws attention to unique systemic challenges and identifies resilience as a developmental adaptive strength. Undocumented students experience role strain due to limited opportunities for financing higher education and the disclosure of their legal status during the college admission process. Factors promoting resilience include protective factors such as family support and social capital, positive coping strategies for challenging stereotypes, and positive identity construction through motivation and a sense of purpose. The unique psychological and social experiences of undocumented students result in a new theoretical understanding, with a focus on feedback loops of resilience/risk. The authors recommend colleges and universities revisit their institutional policies as they pertain to enrollment of undocumented students and public institutions engage state lawmakers to ensure definitions of state residency allow for access to public institutions of higher education.