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First Generation Students & Diversity Fellowships


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Hi All,

I am currently in the process of selecting fellowships to apply to for my dissertation research years, and also scouting fellowships for the dissertation completion year. My advisor has encouraged me to apply widely, and to include diversity fellowships on my list. I am a first-generation/non-traditional student and overcame significant economic and social barriers to get where I'm at today, but do not identify as a member of an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. My advisor has pointed to several fellowships that do, however, encourage applications from first generation students.  I do think my present institution (an Ivy) sorely lacks any conversation about economic diversity and the way it intersects with other underrepresented categories.. It has been a brutal process acclimating to the norms and unwritten/unspoken rules of this place coming from where I come from, In my (fingers crossed!) future in academia I hope to use those experiences to serve all students who do not traditionally end up in academia. At the same time, I know my experience has been different, and I would say easier, because there is not anything that immediately marks me as "underrepresented." I am just curious how others view the possibility of diversity fellowships being given to first-generation students who do not identify as members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups? Is it fairly common for first generation students to apply for these? Can I just add this to the list of things no one ever tells you but everyone seems to know about academia?


Edited by Eleanor1985
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I don't think it matters how any of us would view it. Some diversity fellowships are restricted to URM students while others aren't. If the eligibility criteria say that you're eligible, then you should apply. I wouldn't worry about what other people think about it.

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I would definitely apply if it doesn't restrict their definition of "diversity" to race/ethnic group. I would also recommend bringing it up in scholarship apps that aren't for diversity specifically, because most places still want a diverse body of fellows.  

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Just apply. Coming from a background that isn't college oriented and a family that doesn't have a history in that direction is part of what a lot of "diversity" fellowships are about as well. Before they decided to make diversity essentially a by word for "not as many white men" those types of scholarships already targeted non-traditional students. That includes everything from returning students later in life to first generation students etc etc

Ive used my less traditional path to college and graduate school to sell myself to scholarship and fellowship boards and it has worked extremely well despite my being the exact opposite of what diversity means in the current climate. 

If you don't apply, you are just rejecting yourself. 

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