Texas shield logo
Division of Campus and Community Engagement

Division of Campus and Community Engagement

Living His Best Longhorn Life

Youth Engagement Center alum Alan Castellanos reflects on his journey from the RGV to UT Austin
Alan Castellanos

Here at The University of Texas at Austin, Alan Castellanos is living his best Longhorn life as a member of the Texas Wranglers, a spirit organization that rallies the crowds at basketball games and leads service events on campus and in the community. When reflecting on his time here on the Forty Acres—and the many fun memories he’s made with his fellow Texas Wranglers—he’s thankful for the Youth Engagement Center (YEC) advisors who helped him find his path

“As a first-gen student, my biggest challenge was not knowing where to begin,” says Castellanos, who is now a senior majoring in informatics in the School of Information.“Steve Chapa really helped me through the entire process and guided me in the right direction.” 

While working with Steve Chapa, director of the Rio Grande Valley-based YEC program, and several on-site advisers at Mission High School, Castellanos learned how to navigate the admissions process—from FAFSA and scholarship applications to SAT/ACT prep to college essay writing. The skills he learned paid off when he was awarded a full-ride scholarship from the Terry Foundation.

“One of the most important lessons I learned was to just be myself when filling out applications,” Castellanos says.“It’s so much more powerful to describe how your life experiences have impacted you and how you have grown.” 

Early in his college career at UT Austin, Castellanos learned another important life lesson: follow your heart, not the dollar signs.

“I realized that choosing a major based on money didn’t bring me any enjoyment in my college experience,” says Castellanos, who’s currently working as a research analyst at a real estate agency and plans to pursue a career in this industry after graduation.“It’s better to pursue a major in a discipline that’s interesting to you because it’s more important to do something that makes you happy rather than just to make money.” 

If Castellanos could give one piece of advice to future first-generation college students, it would be to connect with people who can help—and to get started on the college application process long before the deadlines start looming.

“Don’t be afraid to start, even if you’re not sure how, and don’t push it toward the end,” Castellanos says.“Procrastinating will only make it more stressful when time starts running out. And if you feel like you might not get in, it’s always better to try and be rejected than to not try at all.”