The Walentas Scholars Program develops leaders, citizens, and scholars who are pioneers—the first or among the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree from a college or university.

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

The Walentas Scholar Profile

  • Leader: Walentas Scholars demonstrate a desire to serve others. They impact their communities through positions of leadership.
  • Citizen: Walentas Scholars lead by example in their communities, making a positive impact on the world around them.
  • Scholar: Walentas Scholars challenge themselves intellectually, taking the most rigorous courses available to them and succeeding in their course work.
  • First Generation: Walentas Scholars are trailblazers, the first or among the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university.

Student Eligibility

Who is eligible to be nominated?

Nominating secondary schools will consider all first-generation students in their senior classes who are outstanding contributors to their schools and families. Successful candidates have demonstrated exceptional leadership talents, an understanding of the broader community around them, and have demonstrated  uncommon academic abilities.

What is the definition of “first generation”?

While a primary parent or guardian may have earned a certificate, credit, or an associate’s degree from a college, a student is eligible for the Walentas Scholarship if neither parent or guardian in the household has earned a bachelor’s degree.

My parents didn’t attend or finish college, but one of my siblings earned (or is earning) a bachelor’s degree. Am I eligible?

Yes. You and your sibling are both considered first-generation students.

My parent or guardian is working on a college degree right now. Am I eligible?

Yes. Because your parent/guardian has not yet earned a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university, you are eligible. 

One of my parents earned a bachelor’s degree, but I have no relationship with them. Am I eligible?

If you do not know or have a relationship with a biological parent, it is unlikely that you would have benefitted from that parent’s “college knowledge.” Therefore, the Foundation would consider you eligible. 

I am not a U.S. citizen. Is citizenship a requirement?

Walentas Scholars do not have to be U.S. citizens. Citizenship, in the Walentas Scholars Program, means helping your community, in whatever community you find yourself during and after college.

My parent or guardian earned a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in another country. Am I eligible?

No. Because your parent or guardian has the equivalent of a four-year college degree, you would not be considered a first-generation student by the University of Virginia’s definition.

Do I need to apply to U.Va. in order to compete for a Walentas Scholarship?

Yes. All nominees should apply to U.Va through the Common App by the Regular Decision deadline of January 1. Since the scholarship competition is separate from admissions, nominees may apply to U.Va. as a Regular Decision, Early Action, or Early Decision applicant.

Selection and Nomination

How will the selection process work?

Every secondary school in the Commonwealth of Virginia and selected secondary schools in the five boroughs of New York City and in Rochester, New York are invited to nominate a candidate by the December 1 deadline. 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.

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.

The Walentas Scholars Program does not consider SAT/ACT scores. Rigor of high school course work and grade point average will meet or exceed the standard for admission to the University of Virginia.

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

No. The Walentas Scholars Program is separate and distinct from the Foundation’s Jefferson Scholars Program.

Scholarship Details

What will the scholarship cover?

The scholarship 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 eight semesters. Additionally, the scholarship will fund a robust enrichment program designed to enhance the community of leaders and citizens.

How many recipients will there be?

The Foundation expects to enroll 12-15 students in each entering class.

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. Learn more about enrichment opportunities for Walentas Scholars.

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?

Contact Sarah Elaine Hart, director of the Walentas Scholars Program, with any questions.



The Jefferson Scholarship and the Walentas Scholarship are the premier undergraduate scholarships at the University of Virginia.

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