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Competitive Edge

The Graduate Division offers Competitive Edge as a summer transition program for selected incoming graduate students. The eight week program is designed to give selected graduate students an opportunity to begin research prior to the start of their graduate program and to acclimate to the campus environment. Competitive Edge is motivated by the campus's commitment to be fully inclusive and supportive of all students, and by the belief that a diverse graduate student body enhances the quality of the educational experience for all students.


Nominees must
  • Be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or AB 540-qualified applicants
  • Be new incoming graduate students.
  • Demonstrate high academic aptitude and achievement.
  • Be interested in beginning research in the summer prior to the start of the academic program in fall quarter.
  • Be available to participate in summer research prior to the start of the fall quarter. Typically the program begins at the end of June and ends in the first week of August.
  • To be considered, applicants must provide responses to at least three of the seven short answer questions found under Additional Educational Experiences in the online application for admission. 

Fellowship Application Instructions

To be considered for the Competitive Edge fellowship program, applicants must provide responses to at least three of the seven short answer questions found under the Additional Educational Experiences section of the online application for admission. Responses should be brief (between 3-5 sentences per area) highlighting how the applicant overcame barriers, and/or demonstrates a commitment to diversity.  The seven questions are:

  • Leadership(e.g. coordination of volunteer activities, board member in student organization, residential life, student government etc.) etc.)
  • Overcoming Adversity(e.g. overcoming educational, social, cultural, economic, barriers, or barriers related to accessibility, etc.)
  • Community Involvement (e.g. volunteer service, organizing, activism, teaching, mentoring, counseling, community art production etc.)
  • Social Justice Experience(e.g. addressing systemic inequality through education, organizing, activism, mentorship, counseling, outreach/access, survival and development work, event planning/coordination, community building and development, etc.)
  • Personal or Professional Ethics(e.g. experience with an ethical code, conduct seminars, IRB training, etc.)
  • Research(e.g. undergraduate research, involvement in McNair or similar programs, independent or group study with a professor or researcher, research outside of academia, full-time research after college, etc.)
  • Other(e.g. any other kind of experience or information that you feel will help add to creating a diverse spectrum of ideas, perspectives, and experiences

If the applicant did not respond to the questions in the online application, a separate document with the applicant’s responses may be submitted directly to their academic department or program.


Departments will nominate admitted graduate students for the Competitive Edge fellowship whose responses to the short answer questions demonstrate:

  • that they have overcome social, educational or economic barriers and/or
  • a commitment to diversity or increasing educational access for underrepresented students merit (based on academic preparation and potential)

In addition, selected candidates must be available to participate in the eight week research experience prior to the start of fall quarter.

All qualified applicants will be considered without regard to age, ancestry, citizenship, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status.


The Competitive Edge fellowship award consists of:

  • An eight week transition program the summer before the start of fall quarter.
  • $4000.00 stipend during the program.  The stipend is paid by the Graduate Division and the department to which the student is admitted.
  • Weekly readiness workshops.
  • A priority housing offer to live in graduate student housing while a registered graduate student through normative time to degree plus one year. Normative Time to Degree is the typical amount of time it takes to complete the graduate program in each discipline.

Program Content

In addition to the research experience, participants are required to attend workshops to acclimate them to the campus environment. Workshop facilitators are members of the UC San Diego community and serve as faculty, staff or continuing graduate students in various academic fields. In addition to the workshops, participants are expected to attend an orientation at the beginning and a luncheon at the conclusion of the program. Sample workshop topics include:

  • Ethics in Research
  • Public Speaking for Graduate Students
  • Transitioning into Graduate School
  • Career Paths for Graduate Students
  • Funding and Fellowships

Summer Faculty Mentorship

Each Competitive Edge student is expected to work with a summer faculty mentor from their respective departments. The faculty mentor will provide guidance on a research project, new or existing. The project does not have to be completed during the 8-week program, which allows the scope of the project to span the entirety of the summer quarter, through the Fall quarter, or beyond. At minimum, meetings between Competitive Edge Fellows and their respective mentors should occur every other week. Ultimately, this depends on the nature of the project, the amount of oversight each student requires, and the level of mentorship the faculty member is able to provide. In addition to research, the faculty mentor can provide an introduction and guidance to the department, as well as any tips on how to make the most of the summer, first quarter, and first year of their graduate experience.

Contact Us

Please direct questions to:

Edgar Beas