Scholars’ Spotlight: Fiona Ernst, recipient of the First 500 Scholarship

‘The joy and gratitude that accompany this prestigious award are beyond words.

Learning that this scholarship was initiated by the first 500 students who took a bold leap of faith to attend the university during its foundational years has deeply resonated with me. I am now not only grateful for the financial support, but also moved by the profound legacy and vision that the First 500 Scholarship represents.’



Fiona Ernst is a recipient of our First 500 Scholarship. She is currently working towards her undergraduate degree in Psychology and her application included a well-received essay exploring loneliness, particularly amongst the elderly population.

The Scholarship was established by the First 500 students to be admitted to Kent in 1965 and aims to support our current students by giving them the same opportunity our inaugural cohort enjoyed: a university experience free from financial worry.

Applications for the scholarship are open to home and international students who achieve at least A*AA at A level (or an international equivalent) and it provides £2000 towards the tuition fees for each year of study.

Read on to find out how the scholarship has supported Fiona’s studies at Kent.



What encouraged you to apply for the First 500 Scholarship?

Initially, I was researching scholarships and ways to alleviate some of the financial burden of university and studying in general. However, the essay prompt for the First 500 Scholarship shifted my focus to express my ideas for a subject I am genuinely passionate about, making the recognition for my essay even more rewarding.

How has the scholarship helped with your studies?

The scholarship has significantly helped with my studies, allowing me to fully concentrate on being successful with my education. Moreover, receiving recognition for my ideas has been incredibly uplifting and boosted my confidence, encouraging me to remain dedicated to the values I expressed in my essay.

How are you enjoying your time at Kent so far?

My time at the University of Kent has been incredible so far! The lecturers have shown remarkable dedication to their teaching, providing engaging lectures every week. As a student, I am always encouraged to explore new opportunities and seek out help when needed. Overall, the support has been almost overwhelming as the university and staff are committed to and prioritise our wellbeing. Exploring the campus and Kent has been a highlight for me as well, although there are still many places left on my list that I hope to visit.

Do you have any plans for after graduation?

After completing my undergraduate degree, my goal is to pursue further studies and earn my master’s and PhD in psychology, with the aim of establishing a career in research psychology. Although I’m keeping my options open regarding the specific field I want to specialise in, I’m particularly drawn to biological psychology, especially with a focus on dementia research. Currently, I am considering specific master’s programs with two in Norway – Oslo and Tromsø – that are especially appealing. Overall, I hope to one day contribute to advancements within the field, notably regarding advancements for dementia care.

Is there anything you would like to say to the scholarship committee?

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the entire scholarship committee for this incredible honour and investment into my education. Your generosity and belief in my potential are motivators that I carry with me daily.

I am particularly grateful for the opportunity that the Scholarship has given me to share my ideas for a new society at the university – a society that aims to bridge the generational gap and combat the loneliness experienced by both the elderly and the university student population. Writing the essay on a subject I was passionate about was a rewarding experience, and it has inspired me to remain dedicated to the values and goals outlined in my submission.

This scholarship not only encourages me to stay dedicated to my goals but also to strive for excellence in my academic and extracurricular endeavours.