Rising Out of the Depths

by Santos Castillo
(Citrus Heights, California, United States)

My journey through the quagmire of financial aid was quite an ordeal. I became homeless when I was 18 and went on to be homeless until age 22. Throughout this period I had struggled to continue going to a community college in an effort to meet the requirements to transfer to a university to continue my studies in the field of chemistry.

Having come from a low income Latino immigrant family, I had no idea what to do with college administration, much less the paperwork mountain that is financial aid. I had to pass through more hoops than a daredevil! Especially difficult was obtaining proof of my independent status, having no aid from my parents. Proving you are homeless is a lot harder than you’d think! I kept on pushing through, never giving up in spite of all the endless problems and bureaucracy.

My first success with financial aid came too late for me to acquire enough financial aid to overcome my homelessness, but it was enough to keep my head up and allow me to focus better on my academics. I went on to achieve a perfect 4.0 semester full of difficult math and science courses.

On my next attempt on filing my paperwork, everything went much smoother having had experience with the tedious process. Since I had done so well the previous semester, I was able to earn a prestigious scholarship from the National Science Foundation that came with professional development perks as well.

With that scholarship, in addition to gaining access to financial aid’s loans and grants I had initially, after 4 years of homelessness and instability, I gained enough financial aid as a full time student to get my own apartment. This has allowed me to excel greatly academically and I am set to transfer from my community college to the University of California, Davis as a junior! Without the help of financial aid I do not know if I would have achieved as much.

Read more College Financial Aid Advice from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Santos for sharing your success with financial aid for college. You’ve achieved a lot and I wish you much success. Go Aggies! Check out some of our scholarships listed below, including Latino Scholarships.

My Story Is Important

Bria, Chicago, Illinois

Overcoming Obstacles Personal Essay - I am a fighter because I never give up no matter what, I know that in life there are obstacles, I have faced a few myself, but it was not about the obstacle, but more about overcoming it. Every since I was a little child I always wondered, what was I going to become when I grew up? I know that’s kind of strange for a little child to think of those things. Most of them are worrying about playing, or their brand new toy. But I knew that one day I would have a career helping make the world a better place with my gifts and talents.

I was born and raised as a child on the south side of Chicago by my intelligent mother who was a single parent. Growing up without a father to some is an obstacle, but to me it was a reason to be strong, and make something out of myself. Statistics say that children who come from fatherless homes are twice as likely to drop out of school, become emotionally depressed, and 82% of teenage pregnancies come from fatherless homes. But I am proud to say that I am not a part of this statistic. I am senior in high school getting ready to graduate I haven’t had an ‘f’ since I’ve been in high school, I am a very happy person, also I have been consistently in the top 100 of about three to four hundred student in my 2012 class. I also don’t have any kids, my mother has always encouraged me to stay on task, and do what she did not do and beyond. Not only do I want to make my mother proud but I also want to make myself proud, because I have

worked so hard and I am only getting better.

I remember the time when I was in the eighth grade we had to take the PSAT. I had good grades, and I was a really good student who also helped my peers. I just knew I was going to graduate in June. However, after I received my scores I found out that I didn’t pass the test, and that I had to go to summer school to take it over. I was so devastated, and so sad that I wasn’t going to graduate on time; the worst part was going home and telling my mother I wasn’t graduating on time. I felt as though I let myself down and my mother. I started to doubt myself because I felt like everything around me was falling apart, but I knew I couldn’t give up. So I went to summer school and took the test over, not only did I pass the test I did above and beyond getting a very high score. I felt so proud of myself, and from that day forward every time something bad happens, or I fell like giving up I think about that time in my life, and I tell myself I can do anything I put my mind to!

I believe that one of the greatest things in life is gaining experience then sharing it with others. I am not only a student, friend, and family member; I am also a leader who never gives up. What you are reading is a person that gives their best, and helps others accomplish theirs. I take pride in my future because I understand that it doesn’t just affect me, but it also affects the world and the people around me. College is very important to me, because neither my mother nor father have a degree in college yet. However my mother who is a full time student just found out that she’ll be graduating with a degree in computer administration this summer. She sounded so proud and excited; this made me want to make her even more proud by also graduating from high school in 2012, and college one day.

Some of my talents and hobbies include writing, singing, giving speeches, and reading. I read African American literature, because it is inspiring to me, and also entertaining. The music I listen to varies on how I feel that day, but as long as the music is inspirational, or has a message it good. What inspired me to do poetry was a friend of mine who had a tough life told me she wrote poems as a way to relieve stress, so I thought I would try it out. I believe that in order for the brain to function you need to feed it positive stuff like reading, writing and doing things that you love and enjoy. I was once in a singing group and we got the opportunity to compete in the schools talent show, it was a fun experience because it helped me get over my stage freight and work with other people. I am a people person who enjoys having leadership and command, I like making my own rules. However, I know to also pay attention to what other people have to say to me because constructive criticism is helpful, if you use it the correct way. Another one of my achievements is Genesys Works which is a non for profit organization that give urban youth such as myself a chance to gain work experience, and IT, and professional skills. Being there has also taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t know like my leadership skills, and doing speeches. Not only did I gain skills, but I also received a paid internship for Aon the 3rd largest building in Chicago. I can genuinely say Genesys Works has been a learning experience for me that I’ll never forget.

Read more College Admission Essay Examples and Scholarship Essay Examples.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Bria for sharing your Overcoming Obstacles Personal Essay to include in our examples of College Scholarship Essays. Good luck to you.

HomeCollege Essays

Return to Share Your College Essay.


Welcome to College Financial Aid Advice, a website full of information on scholarships and grants, student loans, and other ways to save money at college.

Important Things to Do

Scholarships for 2025 - 2026 - It is never too early or too late to work on your scholarship searches. If you are part of the high school class of 2025, you should work on your scholarship and college search now. See our list of Scholarships for High School Seniors

FAFSA - The official 2024 - 2025 FAFSA is available now. FAFSA.

College Financial Aid Tips

Scholarship Lists An overview of the different types of Scholarship Money for College.

Grants Learn more about grants, the other free money for college.

Need Tuition Help? Reduce the cost of tuition with these college Tuition Assistance Programs.

Tax Credit Claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

College Savings Plans Save money for college with these College Savings Plans.

Need a Student Loan? Yes, you qualify for these college Student Loans.

Popular Scholarship Searches

Scholarships for High School Students

Scholarships for College Students

Easy Scholarships

Scholarship Contests

Weird Unknown Scholarships

Merit Based Scholarships

Scholarships for Minorities

College Scholarships for Women