UCLA tuition costs $12,000 per year. Undocumented students are ineligible for any state, federal financial aid, or loans. Did you ever wonder how I was able to graduate from UCLA as an undocumented student? Here are my top 5 tips!
1) Be a chameleon. Be flexible and adapt to different situations and surroundings. As an undocumented student, I often commuted from home to UCLA via public transportation — 2 hours each way. Many times, I slept in the bus, train, school library, and friend’s closets. I highly don’t encourage sleeping in the school library but learn to adapt to different surroundings.
2) Be an ant. Gather dust to build a mountain. Apply to private scholarships. Apply, apply, apply. I completed my 53rd scholarship application last weekend since graduating from high school. Even apply to scholarship applications that ask you for your social security number. Most organizations place SSN on their basic scholarship template without taking undocumented students into account. MALDEF and the Korean Resource Center (KRC) offer some scholarship opportunities that are worth checking out.
3) Be a social butterfly. Join a student organization dedicated to undocumented students like IDEAS. I found many friends and supporters in IDEAS, like Sofia Campos and Kent Wong. I gave my first public speech with IDEAS at the Los Angeles City Hall. I also received many scholarship opportunities through them. If your campus doesn’t have one, start one like me. I founded ASPIRE, the first space dedicated to undocumented Asian students at UCLA.
4) Be a parrot. Tell your story. I found both financial and legal supporters after I came out. I networked with many people across the country just by sharing my story.
5) Be the early bird that catches the worm. Success comes to those who prepare well by managing their time wisely. I make a “To-Do” list every morning to set goals and plan for the day. I commit wholeheartedly to my activities even when if it’s for 2 minutes. I don’t like wasting time. I also balance my activities from UCLA marching band to UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education to reading and to hanging out with my friends and girlfriend. I also go to the gym whenever I have time to de-stress the stress.