Yale senior and his parents are stars of new admissions and aid video

The video, starring Fernando Rojas ’19 and his family, highlights the perseverance that enabled him to apply to Yale and the aid that allowed him to attend.

Yale senior Fernando Rojas, a candidate for the B.A./M.A. program in history, is the subject of a new video produced by Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The video showcases Rojas and his parents discussing the hard work, perseverance, and faith that enabled him to apply to Yale as a high school senior, and the need-based financial aid that has enabled Rojas to attend Yale without taking out any loans.  

Rojas grew up in Fullerton, California. A national champion in speech and debate, Rojas was co-valedictorian of his high school and received national attention when he was offered admission to nearly a dozen colleges, including all eight Ivy League schools. Admissions officer John Yi ’12 remembers reading Fernando’s application and personally calling him to deliver the good news. “It was clear from Fernando’s application that his community was just as impressed with his kind heart and inclusive spirit as they were with his intellect,” Yi said. “When I first spoke with him, I was struck by his humility and cheerful nature. I was so happy to be the first to welcome him into the Yale community.”

The two made plans to connect at Bulldog Days, Yale’s annual open house program for admitted students, where Rojas met Professor Stephen Pitti ’91, head of Ezra Stiles College and director of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration. Of that first meeting Pitti said, “Fernando and I immediately hit it off. I remember thinking that he was exactly the kind of student I love seeing take a leadership role on campus, and exactly the kind of student I love to teach.” Thinking back to that meeting, Rojas identified it as one of the most important factors in his decision to attend Yale.

A few months later, Rojas learned that he had been assigned to Ezra Stiles College, and that Pitti would be his academic adviser. In his sophomore year Rojas enrolled in one of Pitti’s graduate courses on Latinx studies, and worked alongside 10 doctoral students. “Fernando brought extraordinary insight to our discussions, with an impressive capacity to think deeply and creatively about interdisciplinary materials,” Pitti said. “Seeing him develop as a writer and researcher has been wonderful for me.”

In 2017 Fernando received a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and was admitted to the rigorous B.A./M.A. program in history. As a senior Rojas is working on a year-long independent research project, studying U.S.-Mexican relations during the Cold War. Pitti serves as his senior essay adviser.  

Rojas is also known as a pillar of the Ezra Stiles College community. This year he serves as one of eight first-year counselors, a group of seniors who live with and advise first-year students. “Fernando is light,” said Nilakshi Parndigamage ’06, dean of Ezra Stiles College. “Every day I am struck by his brilliance, good heart, sound judgment, and sense of humor.” Alicia Schmidt Camacho, associate head of college and professor of American studies and ethnicity, race, and migration, said, “Fernando is an incredibly valuable community member. His engagement and wise leadership invariably bring others into the circle.” She added, “I believe that Fernando — and through him, his parents — transform and enlarge Yale’s mission.”  

Earlier this year, Fernando was named the recipient of Yale’s most significant award for juniors: the Hart Lyman prize. The prize, awarded annually to a junior “for character and achievement” is bestowed on “that member of the Junior Class who shall … have made through his [or her] own efforts the best record of accomplishment intellectually and socially.” In November, Fernando was named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, and is currently in consideration for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

The Offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Undergraduate Financial aid will feature the new video for prospective students and their families in the coming months. “No collection of statistics could ever convey the critical message that Yale is affordable and accessible the way Fernando’s story can,” said Mark Dunn ’07, director of outreach and communications. “I am immensely grateful to the Rojas family for opening up their home and sharing their story. I believe it will inspire others to follow their extraordinary example, and Yale will benefit from more exceptional students like Fernando.”

Prospective students and families can get an estimate of their Yale cost in three minutes using the MyinTuition Quick Cost Estimator. Yale has a “need-blind” undergraduate admissions policy, and its financial aid awards meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid does not require loans to meet financial need, and 86% of Yale seniors in the class of 2018 graduated with no debt.


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