When will the scholarship competition begin?

The first selection cycle will begin in the fall of 2021 with recipients identified in the spring of 2022. The first class of Walentas Scholars will enter the University of Virginia in the fall of 2022.

How will the selection process work?

In the fall of 2021, every secondary school in the Commonwealth of Virginia and selected secondary schools in the five boroughs of New York City and in the City of Rochester, New York will be invited to nominate a candidate to the competition. Regional Selection Committees appointed by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation will interview the students nominated and identify finalists. The finalists will come to the University of Virginia in the spring for interviews with the Final Selection Committee who will then recommend scholarship recipients to the Foundation.

Who is eligible to be nominated?

The nominating secondary schools will consider all first generation students in their senior classes.

What is the definition of “first generation”?

Any student neither of whose parents/stepparents/guardians received a degree from a four year college or university.

What are the selection criteria?

Selection of recipients will be based on merit alone in the areas of leadership, scholarship, and citizenship. In addition the selection committees will weigh evidence of tenacity, grit, persistence, and resilience.

What will the scholarship cover?

The scholarships will cover the entire cost of attending the University of Virginia, including tuition and fees, room, board, books, and spending money for a total of 8 semesters.

Will there be an enrichment program associated with the scholarship?

Yes. The Foundation is developing a comprehensive enrichment program designed to ensure the recipients make the most of the opportunity. It will include mentoring, internship and research opportunities, and a dedicated director and program staff.

How many recipients will there be?

The Foundation expects to enroll 15 students in each entering class.

Will the recipients be identified through the current Jefferson Scholarship selection process?

No. This will be a program separate and distinct from the Foundation’s Jefferson Scholars Program.

What is the size of the endowment supporting this new program?

When fully funded, the scholarship endowment will be $70 million.

Who can I speak to at the Foundation to learn more about the program?

Sarah Elaine Hart was named director of the program in August 2020. 



The Jefferson Fellowship is the premier graduate fellowship offered at the University of Virginia. Based solely on merit, the Fellowship seeks to attract Ph.D. and M.B.A. candidates.

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The Jefferson Scholarship is the premier undergraduate scholarship at the University of Virginia. Scholars are selected through a rigorous selection process that is based on exceptional performance in the areas of leadership, scholarship, and citizenship.

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David and Jane Walentas

A transformational gift for UVA — $100 million to benefit first-generation students

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