Graduate Division

Competitive Edge

“…….I applied because of all the work we did in Competitive Edge. ……and the workshops gave me the confidence to do it. I definitely wouldn’t have been prepared if I wasn’t in  the Competitive Edge program.”

Former Competitive Edge Participant and 2018 NSF GRFP Awardee


The Competitive Edge Summer Research Program is summer pre-entry program designed to support entering doctoral and MFA students from diverse backgrounds. The program integrates incoming first-year graduate students into the campus enabling them to work on exciting reseach projects while improving their research skills, forming relationships with other students and their faculty advisors, and participating in professional development programming. 

The Competitive Edge program will run from August 3, 2020 - September 11, 2020.

At this time, Graduate Division does not plan to cancel Competitive Edge 2020. Given the fluid nature of COVID-19 we are exploring alternative formats in the case that we are unable to continue with in-person programming come August.


  • Advanced introduction to UCI faculty
  • Advanced introduction to UCI campus resources
  • Early move-in to graduate campus housing
  • Acquisition of critical teaching skills through workshops and lectures
  • Early mentorship from UCI faculty and peer mentors
  • A community-like experience with support from a peer cohort and the UCI Graduate Division
  • Summer stipend of $5,000


  • Priority is first given to students receiving a Graduate Division Diversity Recruitment Fellowship which includes a Graduate Opportunity Fellowship (GOF), a Euguene Cota-Robles Fellowship (ECR), a Diversity Recruitment Fellowship (DRF), or a Nevin Fellowship. 
  • Departments may sponsor participation into Competitive Edge for students who did not receive a Graduate Division Recrutiment Fellowship. Participants do not directly apply to the Competitive Edge program.  
  • All participants must be doctoral or M.F.A. students entering their first year of graduate study at UCI.
  • Participants must be meet the UC Definition of Diversity
  • Student must be U.S. Citizen, Permanent Resident or AB540 eligible


Participants must commit to a full-time, six-week summer research program the summer prior to their enrollment as a doctoral or MFA student at UCI. Summer program commitment includes about 35-40 hours of research per week, along with workshops, lectures, and other preparatory events to be held throughout the duration of the program.


Peer Mentor Position Overview

Graduate Peer Mentors will support incoming doctoral and MFA students participating in the 2020 Competitive Edge Program. Peer mentors will assist with facilitating the participants' acclimation to UCI prior to the start of their graduate programs in the fall. Peer Mentors should be prepared to support mentee(s) in the areas of professional development, effective communication, and health/wellness. In most cases, peer mentors are assigned one mentee but may be assigned up to two.

Peer mentors are required to commit for the full six-weeks of the program (August 3-September 11, 2020). There will also be a Peer Mentor overview prior to the program to discuss the roles and responsibilities of Peer Mentors in more detail. Attendance is only required at one of the following:

  • Tuesday, July 21st from 2:00-3:00 PM or 
  • Wednesday, July 22nd from 10:00-11:00 AM

Benefits and Compensation

  • Acquire mentoring skills and experience in supporting incoming graduate students on an individual and group basis
  • Expand opportunities for partnership and collaboration by developing relationships with scholars from interdisciplinary fields
  • Engage in opportunities to make a positive impact on the academic trajectory of incoming graduate students from diverse backgrounds 
  • Stipend of up to $600 is payable upon completion of duties and Mentoring Excellence Program (MEP)
  • Opportunity to serve as a Writing Peer Reviewer for additional compensation (limited positions available)
  • This Peer Mentor position is not a residential position and will not include compensation for housing

Applicant Eligibility 

  • Doctoral students currently in their second year or beyond are preferred (first-year students will be considered)
  • Completion of the Mentoring Excellence Program (MEP) is required - If not yet completed, applicants must enroll and successfully complete the MEP certificate program this summer
  • Returning Peer Mentors must have the MEP series completed by the end of Spring 2020 to be eligible 
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Past or current experience working with diverse student backgrounds is preferred
  • All candidates must be full-time UCI Doctoral or MFA Students who are eligible to receive fellowship support from the university

Responsibilities and Expectations

  • Check-in with mentee(s) throughout the program on a weekly basis. Check-ins should be structured with targeted questions to develop rapport and assess support areas
  • Provide feedback on Competitive Edge program assignments including but not limited to drafting fellowship applications and presentations
  • Provide support and guidance to mentee(s) on navigating grad life at UCI 
  • Share experiences to orient incoming student(s) into their first year of graduate school
  • Report any concerns regarding mentee(s)' progress or well-being to Program Coordinator  
  • Willingness to serve as a Peer Mentor to mentee(s) beyond their summer in the Competitive Edge Summer Program

If selected, peer mentors will be required to complete the following: 

  • Attend 1 Peer Mentor Overview Session 
    • Tuesday, July 21st from 2:00-3:00 PM or 
    • Wednesday, July 22nd from 10:00-11:00 AM 
  • Attend and participate in the following programmatic activities in support of mentee(s) – dates, times, and activities are subject to change
    • Competitive Edge Participant/Peer Mentor Welcome – Monday, August 3rd 
    • Community Building/ Professional Development Assignment (details to follow) 
    • Peer Mentor/Mentee Reflection Journals (details to follow) 
    • Peer Mentor check-ins with Program Coordinator 

Application Deadline:

Monday, June 1st, 2020, at 12 PM (NOON)

  • Completed applications must be received by the deadline to be considered.
  • In addition to completing the application, please upload your resume/CV directly to the form. 


Claudia Campos
Outreach and Retention Coordinator
Graduate Division
Tel.: (949) 824-1281
Fax: (949) 824-9096