Meet Aaron

I’ve never met anybody who’s judged me.

Grades

“I’ve never met anybody who’s judged me.”

When I was a junior, I was expelled.

Grades

“When I was a junior, I was expelled.”

I didn't know what I wanted to do.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I didn't know what I wanted to do.”

I don’t really put myself out there a lot.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I don’t really put myself out there a lot.”

I’m proud to say that I’m doing very well.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I’m very proud to say that I’m doing very well.”

I went to school for practically nothing.

Cost

“I went to school for practically nothing.”

Money is out there to help you—just look.

Cost

“Money is out there to help you—just look.”

It was stressful but rewarding in the end.

Cost

“It was stressful but rewarding in the end.”

I wanted to be a teacher.

Cost

“I wanted to be a teacher.”

I just assumed I wasn’t going to go.

Cost

“I just assumed I wasn’t going to go.”

It hits you at once.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“It hits you at once.”

I wasn’t sure what to do.

Cost

“I wasn’t sure what to do.”

Everything was in fine print.

Cost

“Everything was in fine print.”

I was a quiet freshman but now I'm outgoing.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I was a quiet freshman but now I'm outgoing.”

I had to deal with a lot all at once.

Responsibilities

“I had to deal with a lot all at once.”

I stayed close to home so my parents could visit.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I stayed close to home so my parents could visit.”

It pretty much gave me a full ride.

Cost

“It pretty much gave me a full ride.”

People are willing to help if you ask them.

Cost

“People are willing to help if you ask them.”

I was intimidated since I was undocumented.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I was intimidated since I was undocumented.”

My father did not want to help me.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“My father did not want to help me.”

I have a good chance of becoming more stable.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I have a good chance of becoming more stable.”

Leaving the reservation is a huge step.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“Leaving the reservation is a huge step.”

Meet Aaron

 

I tell my brothers they have choices to make.
Aaron hopes his little brothers will take advantage of opportunities like he did.
Leaving the reservation is a huge step. (01:21)
Aaron describes how education gets the respect of Navajo elders.
Leaving the reservation is a huge step.
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I tell my brothers they have choices to make. (00:46)
Aaron hopes his little brothers will take advantage of opportunities like he did.
I tell my brothers they have choices to make.
Now Playing
The application process was daunting at first. (00:40)
Aaron found a way to make applying to college easier.
The application process was daunting at first.
Now Playing
My essay was about my struggles growing up. (01:12)
Aaron explains why you should write your college essay in your own voice.
My essay was about my struggles growing up.
Now Playing

Snapshot

Year in college
Freshman
Major
Biochemistry
Family income
$50,000–$75,000
College
Public four-year college
Published yearly in-state tuition and fees
$9,299
High school activities
Traveling to Europe and China with school choir
By taking advantage of opportunities and challenging himself, Aaron reached his goal of attending college.
His obstacle 

Aaron grew up as part of the Navajo Nation and was generally content with his life on the reservation. But he knew he wouldn't make it to college if he didn't work hard and take charge of his education early on.

The struggles Aaron observed on the reservation influenced his attitude toward life. "Growing up on the reservation, you see a lot ... and you kind of have to grow up fast and decide. ... And I decided that I really wanted to do something and to really make something of myself."

How he overcame it 

While in middle school, Aaron received letters from college-prep high schools. He felt that going to one of them would help him reach his goals. He faced the difficult decision of leaving the reservation to attend a boarding school more than 2,500 miles away. Making a choice like that while only in middle school can be scary, but with his mom's support, Aaron knew it was the right one for him.

Such a big move meant that Aaron had difficult adjustments to make. But he feels that the experience strengthened him and made him much more culturally aware. Referring to his experiences with both white and Native American cultures, he says, "I've been an observer of these two worlds. ... You realize how unique and special [each] is. It's helped me appreciate life in general much more."

Life at college 

After the experience of living so far away, Aaron wanted to attend college in his home state. On campus, he's involved in Native American organizations as a way of connecting with his culture and other Native Americans. He founded a local chapter of AISES, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and is its president. "It's easy to get involved — first identify your interests and then go out. There's a group for everything."

One of the things Aaron likes most about being in college is the way people getting a higher education are respected by Navajo elders, "which is huge in Native American culture." The elders hope that Navajo college graduates will help their community in the future.

Aaron also hopes to inspire his little brothers. "I kind of give them the mindset that ... you're going to have a lot of choices. ... You can take the step toward higher education and do things for yourself to live in abundance and have a better life. ... I tell them it's all up to them."

Crafting a great personal essay

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Brainstorm

What are your best qualities? Loyalty? Creativity? Come up with five.

Find Your Story

Think about something you did that really shows off one of those qualities. That’s your story.

Get It On Paper

Good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Set up a solid structure and fill it with colorful details that bring your story to life.

Edit

Correct any spelling or grammar mistakes and make sure your main idea comes across clearly.

Set It Aside, Edit Again

You’ll be surprised at how much more you catch after a break of a day or two.

Share It

Get feedback from someone you trust and respect.

Discover more essay-writing tips.

If you're like Aaron

Take a next step

Get started with these ideas.