The best way to overcome fear is to have a deep, intrinsic motivation behind why you need to succeed. The following essays are written by two of my former 6th grade students, both of whom are now in college and pursuing their dreams of practicing medicine. What’s your motivation?

Samantha Gonzalez, 2nd year at UC Berkeley

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology, Pre-med

As my senior year of high school came to an end, I was really excited about starting college at UC Berkeley. I had been accepted to one of my dream schools, I would be a couple hours away from home (which was my preference), and I was finally going to have more freedom and independence. I thought I had everything under control and that my transition to college would be easy – but I was wrong! My financial aid money had not yet been disbursed and I had books and school supplies to buy. In addition, my meal plan would not cover all of my meals for the semester and my financial aid did not cover all of my fees. I had no money for myself and the semester had barely even begun. Not having enough money to pay for my college education became my biggest fear.

I wasn’t born in the U.S. so I am not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant or work-study benefits. Additionally, I didn’t have a work permit or the money to pay to obtain one through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). I started to regret choosing this school; had I stayed at home, living expenses would not have been an issue. It wasn’t until one of my scholarships came in that my fears for that first semester of college eased a bit. But the anxiety came again at the start of the spring semester and once again at the start of my sophomore year.

Fortunately I now have a work permit, paid for by the Undocumented Student Program at UC Berkeley, and my living expenses are lower because I live off-campus. I still fear that maybe next semester my financial aid money won’t be enough to cover my expenses, but being able to work gives me a little bit more sense of security and I know that I can always take out loans if absolutely necessary. I know that the time and money I invest in my education now will pay off for years to come after I graduate, which is why despite my fears, I continue to persist and persevere through whatever challenges come my way.

Lucy Ortega, 3rd year at Wellesley College

Major: Biological Sciences, Pre-med

On August 25, 2013 I left South Los Angeles to attend Wellesley College in Boston. Despite being 3000 miles away from home, I was beyond excited because I was a step closer to a career as a doctor that would allow me to come back and help my community. However, my excitement began to fade once classes started. As I attended class I saw how different I was from the other students. I was a first generation college student that had attended a low-performing high school and was one of the only Latinas, not just on campus, but studying in the science field. My peers who had attended elite boarding schools intimidated me and I began to question if I really deserved to be at one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country.

As my classes got more challenging and my grades were not living up to my expectations, I began to fear failure. In my mind I was failing not just myself, but my family, my community, and my mentors who had all helped me get to where I am today. I believe the main reason my fears got the best of me during this time was due to a lack of role models in the community where I grew up that could guide me through this transition. There were only a few students from my community who had attended college on the east coast and even fewer who had graduated and come back to help the community. My fears once made me feel incompetent, but now I use my fears to motivate me to reach my goal of one day serving as a role model for the younger generations in my community – to show them that anything is possible through hard work and that they too can succeed in college and compete with the best and brightest students in the nation.

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