Meet Jonathan W.

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 W.

 

I have a good chance of becoming more stable.
Jonathan kept his promise to his grandmother and went to college.
I have a good chance of becoming more stable. (0:46)
Jonathan kept his promise to his grandmother and went to college.
I have a good chance of becoming more stable.
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I didn't have extra help. (0:55)
Jonathan balances college classes with his job at an airline.
I didn't have extra help.
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Snapshot

Year in college
Sophomore
Major
Air traffic control
Family income
$20,000–$40,000
College
Public two-year college
Published yearly in-state tuition and fees
$5,012
Favorite video game
Call of Duty
Favorite books
Harry Potter series
Dream job
Air traffic controller in a large city
At the end of high school, Jonathan lost the grandmother who raised him, and he took time off to mourn. But his promise to her kept him from giving up on college entirely.
His obstacle 

After playing varsity football in high school, Jonathan was ready to take his game to the college level and he looked into athletic scholarships. But when his grandmother died, he was no longer so sure about his college plans. "She had passed and I took it hard, so I put everything off. She couldn't even get to go to my graduation... so it really just messed me up."

Without any financial support from family, Jonathan also knew any further education would be his own responsibility. "I had a burden on myself to pay for college. I didn't have extra help."

How he overcame it 

Even though he didn't go to college right away, Jonathan was driven by two things: the promise he'd made to his grandmother to further his education and the desire to prove something to others. "I just wanted to succeed... My biggest fear was failing, so I've done everything in my power to not fail."

Jonathan's first passion was to be a pilot, but he quickly realized that career didn't fit in with his other goals. "I've talked to some of the pilots and they're not home much. And I feel like in the future I want to be a family man. So air traffic control was still in the airline category and that's something I would love to do."

Jonathan found a nearby technical college that offered a major in air traffic control. He made sure it was part of a program run by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so that he'd qualify for a job when the time came. He also wanted to stay close to home for emotional support in case he needed it, so for him it was the perfect fit.

Jonathan wasn't embarrassed to ask about financial aid. "I went in with confidence. I needed help, but knew once I received help I was going to take college seriously. That's how I looked at it." He took the time to learn the process and evaluate all the forms of aid. He approached the financial aid office at his college for guidance. They gave him information on grants and he went online and applied.

Life at college 

Jonathan finds the work in college much more intense than in high school. He balances his studies with a part-time job at an airline, which helps pay extra expenses. "I don't think college is hard; it's time-consuming. If you can manage your time, you can do well."

Looking back, Jonathan says, "It feels good that I made the decision to go to college, because I know that higher education means a lot in this country. And for me, it means that I have a good chance of becoming more stable in my life, lifelong."

Financial aid glossary

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Financial Aid

Money intended to make up the difference between what your family can afford and what college costs. Most college students receive aid.

Need and Merit

Scholarships and other types of financial aid are awarded to students with need, merit or both. Need-based aid is given only to students whose families can’t afford the full cost of the college they want to attend. Merit aid is awarded based on academic success and other achievements.

FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the most important form to fill out if you want help paying for college. It’s used to figure out how much your family is expected to pay toward your education.

Learn more about paying for college.

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