For the trivia buffs in the room, here’s a quick question for you. What do the following people have in common? Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice; 2 Chainz, hip-hop artist; Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks Coffee; and Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States? The correct answer underscores the drive and inspiration of these various figures: they are all first-generation college students.
The United States has different connotations for many different groups of people. However, the idea of the “American Dream,” is one that has held steadfast throughout history. It posits that if one is willing to work tirelessly towards a goal, they can achieve it, and the only thing standing in one’s way is themselves. However, sociologists agree that students of non-college graduates drive the idea, though innately problematic due to racial and economic disadvantages, forward to this day. Here is a brief run-through of some of the many scholarship options afforded to aspiring first-generation college students.
Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship
Deadline: May 31, 2017
“I’d like to buy the world a Coke, and keep it company…” It’s one of the most well-known jingles of all time, advertising legend Bill Backer, of Backer Spielvogel Bates, Inc., wrote this in the early 1970s. The message of the commercial, which features a diverse group of singers, hands joined, swaying on a hilltop, is that people are not so different from one another, that through our common bonds, including enjoying Coca-Cola, everyone can strive towards a better tomorrow.
Coca-Cola did not see this commercial as a simple platitude. Throughout their existence, they have used their massive platform for philanthropy and goodwill, including sponsoring the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship. One of several scholarships offered by tribal colleges to Native American or Alaskan students, the Coke scholarship is open to any first-generation college student with at least a 2.9 GPA that demonstrates financial need. Students must submit their applications by the end of May, and the scholarship rewards its chosen applicants with a $5,000 check towards college tuition.
University of Chicago Odyssey Scholarship
Chicago is a city with great importance in the history of equal opportunity. From the counter sit-ins at Jack Spratt’s coffee shop by young black students to housing the headquarters of the first person of color to be elected president, Chicago has maintained the image of a destination city for those looking to overcome personal or societal struggles. This theme is present to this day in the many opportunities afforded to first-generation college students throughout the city, most notably the University of Chicago’s Odyssey Scholarship.
Funded through an anonymous $100,000,000 donation, the Odyssey Scholarship is open to low-income students, as well as those who would be the first in their immediate family to attend college. The scholarship greatly takes into account family history and financial need. In fact, all scholars come from households making under $90K a year. If chosen, Odyssey Scholars will receive a generous financial stipend, as well as an internship opportunity in the summer leading up to their sophomore year.
University of Colorado Boulder First Generation Grant
The University of Colorado Boulder, or UC Boulder, consistently rates high among the best public universities in the nation. With its diverse student body, beautiful campus, and prime location in the heart of a bustling city, UC Boulder draws students from all over the map looking for a fantastic college experience. As is the case with every school, these students come from wildly varying backgrounds. Some are legacies, some come from upper or middle-class households, and some are first generation college students.
The latter group may feel as if they face a disadvantage. Transitioning to such a large school is hard enough on its own without facing internal pressure as the first person in your family to attend college. To address this issue, UC Boulder sponsors a First Generation Grant for these students. The program’s website states that many staff members at UC Boulder were first gen students themselves. They promise a welcoming environment for these students. To win the scholarship, a student’s resume is taken into account, which includes leadership opportunities, academic excellence, and extracurricular activities.
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