Since 2017, the First-Generation College Celebration has commemorated the passing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which increased access to higher education for low-income and first-generation populations. Phi Delta Theta recognizes the journey every college student takes before they set foot on campus, and bridging the financial gap to membership for first-generation students is essential to their success in college. In 2021, the Phi Delta Theta Foundation Board of Trustees approved a four-year initiative providing $1,000,000 in scholarships ($250,000 annually) to new members of Phi Delta Theta who did not have a parent or guardian to complete a four-year college degree program.
We surveyed first-generation new member scholarship recipients to allow them to tell us their stories. Chase Radomski, North Dakota ’26, shared his experience with us.
What did it feel like entering college as a first-generation student?
Going to college was a daunting experience. I was moving to the University of North Dakota, which was halfway across the country, to start my life alone. I knew nobody; I didn’t have any family out here, and once my family left to take the two-day trip back home, I felt alone. But my parents worked hard to give me the best shot at life I could get, and I am forever grateful to them.
Talk about what you experienced as you began your journey with Phi Delta Theta.
I rushed Phi Delta Theta in the fall of my first year. I looked into a few different fraternities like most first-year students do, and I didn’t like what I saw in most of them, and I didn’t see genuine brotherhood. Then, that Thursday night, Tyler Schmidt texted me to come to a Phi Delta Theta recruitment event. Once I showed up, I immediately felt welcome and comfortable. After talking with dozens of the brothers that night, I knew Phi Delta Theta differed from the rest. I signed my bid card as fast as I could, and I’ve never looked back. That feeling last year when I first met my brothers has persisted through all my experiences at UND. I’m not as alone as I thought I’d be when I first showed up. My brothers have given me so much to help me become the greatest version of myself.
I’m a double major in mechanical and aerospace engineering and the vice president of UND’s Advanced Rocketry Club. Juggling everything from the Fraternity, my classes, building and launching rockets has been challenging; they all take up so much time. However, I have an overwhelming amount of support behind me. I know that every brother wants me to succeed and accomplish my goals just like I want them to be themselves. I love helping my brothers with their homework, repairing vehicles, and maintaining the house, among other things. It’s the least I can do for them after welcoming me into the Fraternity.
What can you expect going forward with all that you know and with all these resources at your disposal?
My future is very exciting to me. I want to pursue a career as an engineer in the private space industry, whether with SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, or even start my own company. Phi Delta Theta’s distinguished history of putting the first man on the moon (Neil Armstrong) greatly inspires me as a student in this field. Being a part of this chapter has helped me build lifelong friendships, given me leadership opportunities, and created memories that I wouldn’t imagine experiencing otherwise. Phi Delta Theta has changed my perspective on life, and with this, I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
If you had to say one thing to your younger self, going into college as a first-generation student and knowing what you know now as a member of Phi Delta Theta, what do you think you would say?
If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, it would be to stay focused, driven, and keep working hard. COVID wrecked my high school experience. Being from Washington, we shut down for nearly three full years. With so much uncertainty, I lost track of my goals when I could’ve used that time to put myself ahead of the pack. It was a tough time mentally, and it took a lot of effort to get back on track. My advice to my younger self is to find an outlet for creativity and use this time to start projects and focus on learning more outside Zoom classes.
Are you a first-generation college student and a new member of Phi Delta Theta? Apply for a scholarship!
Phi Delta Theta members who are first-generation college students* and were initiated in Phi Delta Theta after 7/1/2023 are eligible to apply for this scholarship before the end of their first academic year of membership.
* Phi Delta Theta defines first-generation as a student who has not had a parent or guardian complete a four-year degree.
Applications for all Foundation scholarships are available through the myPhiDelt membership portal. First-Generation New Member applications will auto-populate if you indicated you are a first-generation college student upon creating your myPhiDelt account. If you have questions, please contact Bonnie Schiller to help with the process.
About the Phi Delta Theta Foundation
The Phi Delta Theta Foundation exists to strengthen men for life by building on the tradition of our core values: Friendship, Sound Learning, and Rectitude.
Since its very humble beginnings, the Foundation has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships and fellowships to outstanding young Phis. The Foundation has also granted nearly $12 million toward the Fraternity’s premiere leadership and educational programs, such as the McKenzie Family Presidents Leadership Conference, the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute, The Ihlenfeld University for Online Education, the Leadership Consultant Program and the Alcohol- Free Housing initiative.
To learn more about the Phi Delta Theta Foundation’s First-Generation Scholarships and their impact, view our 2023 Impact Report.