Jefferson Scholarship Leadership Essay

The University of Virginia awards around 30-35 students every year the merit-based UVA Jefferson Scholarship. Students cannot apply directly for the scholarship. Instead, the students must be nominated by eligible high schools in VA.

The Award

The UVA Jefferson Scholarship will cover your entire 4 years at UVA, including coverage of the supplemental enrichment programs that Jefferson Scholars will be offered.

Total value of the scholarship exceeds:

  • $280,000 for non-Virginian students

  • $150,000 for Virginian students

Enrichment Programs

Being a Jefferson Scholar doesn’t just mean getting a full ride to UVA, they also have access to enrichment programs that are designed to support and nurture these students passions and skills. The opportunities include:

  • Team Challenge Program

  • Institute for Leadership and Citizenship

  • Foreign Travel Studies

  • Alumni Connections Program

  • Career Counseling

  • Public Service Fellows

  • Enrichment Dinners and Receptions

Nomination & Selection

There are over 4,500 secondary school that are eligible to nominate students for the regional competition for the Jefferson Scholarship. Each school may nominate one or two student per year from the graduating class.

Once nominated, students are required to go through a selection process. Student nominees will first be placed into regional competitions, and 120 finalists from regionals will be invited to Charlottesville for the Jefferson Scholarship Selection Weekend in late March.

In 2016-2017, 36 Jefferson Scholars emerged from the pool of 2,005 nominees. Click here to learn more about the Jefferson Scholarship. 

Student Insight


University of Virginia ‘20

Small exterior scholarships are always a good idea but many people don’t realize much-larger opportunities available. One of the main reasons (perhaps THE main reason) I chose to attend UVA is because of the Jefferson Scholarship. It not only pays all my college expenses, but also opens up an extremely strong and close-knit group of alumni connections and forges and instant community among the scholars (~35 per year). At my school, we had to apply to be nominated by our counselors for the scholarship. Many students at my school weren’t even aware of this. Other similar scholarships include the Morehead-Cain at UNC and the Robertson, which I believe entails dual-enrollment at UNC and Duke. View the full University of Virginia application file. 


University of Virginia ‘18

Personal Statement Excerpt: 

“If your childhood was anything like mine, you remember endlessly asking your parents “why?” to unravel fundamental truths. You remember transforming your Tyson chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes into a Continental Army troop (nuggets) crossing the icy Delaware River (mashers). If you think back hard enough, your recall chopping up your older sister’s CDs for ducted fans in your latest quadrotor helicopter.” Read his full UVA personal statement.


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About The Author

Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.

The Jefferson Scholarship selection process is designed to give students an opportunity to showcase their excellence in leadership, citizenship, and scholarship.  For the 2016-2017 competition, the Foundation received 2,005 nominations from secondary schools participating in the regional competitions. 


No one may apply for a Jefferson Scholarship. Participating schools are asked to nominate the student in the senior class who best exemplifies excellence in the Jeffersonian ideals of leadership, scholarship, and citizenship.

  • An eligible school’s nominating committee is asked to nominate one student. 
  • Successful candidates have demonstrated uncommon academic abilities, exceptional leadership talents, and an understanding of the broader community around them.
  • Prior interest in the University of Virginia and financial need should not be factors in selecting a nominee.
  • Nominations are completed by both school officials and students and include a scholastic report, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters and two essays. 
  • The Jefferson Scholars Foundation seeks to identify the most highly talented students in the world, and all that is asked of these students is a willingness to participate fully in the selection process.
  • All counselors and Jefferson Scholar nominees must submit a completed nomination form by December 1.

*Schools will be allowed to nominate a second candidate if and only if they feel they have two equally qualified candidates between whom they are unable to distinguish.

Admissions At-Large Nomination

A separate competition permits a review of all:

  • U.Va. Early Action applicants attending secondary schools not eligible to participate in the regional competitions
  • Nursing School applicants
  • School of Architecture applicants

Students who wish to be considered for a Jefferson Scholarship nomination but do not attend an eligible school must apply using the Early Action admission process to the University of Virginia, a November 1 deadline. Due to the volume of students in the Admissions At-Large competition, only those students receiving a nomination will be notified of their status.

Regional Selection

Each year the Foundation identifies finalists through 62 regional competitions around the country and 2 international competitions. Regional selection committees—comprised of alumni and friends of the University—review transcripts, extracurricular activities, essays, and teacher recommendations before conducting one or more rounds of interviews. Of these regional nominees, 120 finalists are invited to Charlottesville to compete at the Jefferson Scholars Selection Weekend in March.

Selection Weekend

In March, all 120 finalists arrive on Grounds for the Jefferson Scholars Selection Weekend, a four-day opportunity to explore the University of Virginia and complete the Jefferson Scholarship competition. Activities included participation in seminars led by University professors, a written exercise, a math/logic exam, and a personal interview. At the competition’s conclusion, the Selection Committee selects the recipients of the Jefferson Scholarship, who must then decide whether to accept the scholarship offer by April 16th.


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