Meet Jonathan O.

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 Jonathan O.

 

I realized colleges look for more than grades.
Jonathan's participation in sports helped his application stand out.
I stayed close to home so my parents could visit. (0:32)
When Jonathan's parents want to visit — or cook for him — they don't have far to go.
I stayed close to home so my parents could visit.
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Neither of my parents went to college. (0:28)
Jonathan's parents wanted him to go to college but didn't know how to help him.
Neither of my parents went to college.
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Finding a place to be me helped me grow. (0:36)
At college, Jonathan experienced culture shock, but he found a way to fit in.
Finding a place to be me helped me grow.
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I applied to all my "reach" schools. (0:27)
Two people motivated Jonathan to try for the colleges he most wanted to attend.
I applied to all my "reach" schools.
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I realized colleges look for more than grades. (0:26)
Jonathan's participation in sports helped his application stand out.
I realized colleges look for more than grades.
Now Playing

Snapshot

Year in college
Junior
Major
Economics and political science
Family income
$20,000–$40,000
College
Private four-year university
Published yearly tuition and fees
$45,290
Financial aid received
Full scholarship
High school extracurriculars
Cross country and track
Favorite TV show
The Daily Show
Favorite college class
Contemporary Civilization
Encouragement from a coach and counselors helped Jonathan realize he could include some Ivy League schools on his college list.
His obstacle 

Jonathan's parents didn't go to college themselves, so they didn't feel they could advise him on where to begin. "I really didn't know much about the process." He was also concerned about how his family would pay for college.

But his parents placed a high value on education and encouraged him to attend college. "Throughout my life they would stress 'always put [education] first.'"

How he overcame it 

Jonathan's friends and extended family members provided him with information and support. His cousins, who'd already applied to college, "understood the college system and really helped."

Jonathan did a lot of work on his own, too. He didn't just take campus tours; he explored campuses independently to get a feel for each college. He also researched colleges online.

With the guidance and encouragement of his counselors and track coach, Jonathan decided that his college list should include some "reach" schools that he might not get into. He'd worked hard in high school and hoped his good grades and sports involvement would work in his favor. He was ecstatic when he was accepted to an Ivy League college — with a full scholarship.

Life at college 

With college classes, extracurricular commitments and a social life to juggle, Jonathan had to develop better habits quickly. As he puts it, "I've learned better time management through just being on my own and not having teachers harass me into going to class or handing homework in."

Jonathan experienced some culture shock when he first got to campus. But by joining Latino and Mexican student organizations, he found a place where he fit in. He made new friends and connections and even took on leadership roles. 

He also found that his decision to attend a college close to home was a good one. His parents love that they can visit and cook for him, and he enjoys staying connected to his family and culture. Jonathan's even able to help his younger brother, who's considering the same college.

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.

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If you're like Jonathan O.

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