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The Jack Kent Cooke Dissertation Fellowship Award supports advanced doctoral students who are completing dissertations that further the understanding of the educational pathways and experiences of high-achieving, low-income students. We seek to provide funding for doctoral candidates whose work informs and advances the following populations/aspects of our mission:

  • high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds, and/or
  • students who demonstrate the potential for achievement, and/or
  • the conditions that promote high achievement (e.g., school settings, interventions, policies).


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, through its scholarship and grant making programs, advances the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Our work allows us to see firsthand how high-achieving students with financial need overcome obstacles and excel academically.  Our research, however, has shown that many high-potential, low-income students are unable to successfully navigate these obstacles.

In The Achievement Trap (2007), we found that there is a significant drop off in the number of low-income students who are identified as high-achieving throughout the primary and secondary education system. These student experiences raise important questions about the factors and contexts that help some students with financial need overcome personal adversity, limited educational opportunities, and challenging socioeconomic circumstances to excel academically, and how a deeper understanding of such matters can be used to design programs and interventions that will help more low-income students identified as high achieving early in their primary and secondary school years to sustain their academic achievement levels through college and beyond.

In response to this gap in knowledge, the Foundation created the Dissertation Fellowship Award for advanced doctoral students who are completing dissertations that further the understanding of the educational pathways and experiences of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. The fellowship is intended to focus more scholarly attention on the population of students the Foundation serves in order to enable practitioners, parents, schools and communities to better support such students in achieving their full potential.

Dissertation fellowships are intended to support the doctoral student for work done after the student’s dissertation proposal has been successfully defended. Applications are encouraged from a variety of disciplines such as, but not limited to, education, sociology, economics, psychology, statistics, and psychometrics.

The fellowship is a one-time award of up to $25,000, which may be used for a period of not less than nine months and up to 18 months, beginning in June 2014.  Award decisions are announced in May.  See this link for 2014 timeline. We expect to offer six in 2014.

Eligible applicants must have completed all pre-dissertation requirements.


Selection Process and Criteria

With the assistance of a panel of national experts, the Foundation will select Fellows using these criteria:

  • Applicant’s superior academic ability and achievement;
  • Dissertation’s significant contribution to exploring and understanding the factors that support and hinder high academic achievement for low-income students. Ideally, the results will enable practitioners, scholars, funders and community members to design strategies and programs to aid high-achieving, low-income students in reaching their full potential;
  • The quality of the proposal with regard to its methodology, scope, theoretical framework, and grounding in the relevant scholarly literature, and;
  • The feasibility of the project and the likelihood that the applicant will execute the work within the proposed timeframe.

Minimum Eligibility Requirements

Applicants for Dissertation Fellowships:

  • may be U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or non-U.S. citizens;
  • must currently be studying at an accredited U.S. institution;
  • must be advanced doctoral students, who have completed all pre-dissertation requirements;
  • must have successfully defended their dissertation proposal before the application deadline (February 4, 2014); and
  • must not have previously received a scholarship or other funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, creed, color, sex, age, physical or mental disabilities, sexual orientation, or national origin. Foundation staff, board members, current scholars and their families are not eligible to apply.

More Information

The 2014 Dissertation Fellowship Guidelines, the FAQs, the Eligibility Timeline, and the Reviewer Recommendations provide greater detail and additional pertinent information necessary for a competitive application.

Past Recipients

To learn about previous recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Dissertation Fellowship Award, visit our recipients page.


The 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Dissertation Fellowship application closed February 4, 2014.


Fellowship Requirements 

Selected Fellows agree to comply with Foundation requirements and requests for the duration of the fellowship. Some key requirements and terms are:

  • Fellows must be enrolled in a graduate degree program, and provide documentation of academic progress each term.
  • Fellows must participate in Fellowship activities, including the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholars Weekend  in August of each year. The Foundation will provide travel expenses, lodging, and meals.
  • Fellows must be willing to present their research to Foundation staff and/or Scholars

How Funding May Be Used

The Dissertation Fellowship must be used to support a graduate student while writing his or her dissertation.  How the funds are expended depends on each recipient’s individual need.  We determine need through the cost of attendance at each recipient's school; we do not provide fellowship money directly to the recipient. More information can be found on how the fellowship funds are disbursed in the FAQs and the Guidelines.

This fellowship does not provide funding for distance learning programs or for degrees heavily dependent on distance learning components. The fellowship does not cover overhead.

More Information

Please visit the FAQs page and the Guidelines to learn more about the Fellowship.

If after reviewing the FAQs and Guidelines, you still have questions, please contact the Foundation at 703-723-8000 or through the email address


The Foundation will notify recipients in late May.


Many of your questions will be answered in the Dissertation Fellowship Award FAQs. Read FAQs.

Foundation News

Don’t miss the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s latest news. Read more.

Want To Know More?

To learn about previous recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Dissertation Fellowship Award, visit our Recipients page.