uva scholarships

UVA Scholarships- Introduction

In this article, we will discuss two specific scholarships for college: the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and the Walentas Scholarship. We will provide information on eligibility for these two UVA scholarships and academic scholarship requirements. Furthermore, we’ll discuss the funding they provide to cover the cost of college, how to apply for merit scholarships, and tips on how to become a Jefferson Scholar!

In the following sections, you will learn:

  • What merit-based scholarships are and how to win them
  • Details about two merit-based UVA scholarships: the Jefferson Scholarship and the Walentas Scholarship
  • The value of the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship
  • Who is eligible for the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship
  • The application requirements, timeline, and FAQs for the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship

But firstly, before you begin your quest to win a Jefferson Scholarship, let’s take a closer look at the basics. We’ll explore what merit scholarships are and how they differ from other types of scholarships for college.

Understanding Merit-Based Scholarships

It’s important to realize that merit-based scholarships are different from loans and other types of scholarships for college in several ways. 

Merit scholarships are awarded based on a student’s academic achievements or other notable accomplishments. They can be awarded by a university or college, or by community organizations or companies. Students don’t need to demonstrate financial need or to pay back merit-based scholarships. Like most scholarships for college, merit scholarships are awarded based on factors like your grades, test scores, or other significant activities you have been involved in. 

As with other types of scholarships for college, merit scholarships vary in size and competitiveness. They can provide significant support in offsetting the cost of college for students of all types. Scholarships for college that offer the most financial support are the most competitive. On the whole, these scholarships will prioritize academic scholarship requirements like GPAs, test scores, and rigorous coursework. Other factors that some merit scholarships consider include athletics and community-based activities. 

Find more detailed information on merit-based scholarships, explore our resources here. Additionally, find examples of scholarships for college and merit scholarships offered by a variety of schools, organizations, and companies here

Confronting the Cost of College: 3 Tips to win Merit-Based Scholarships

To identify scholarships for college and merit-based scholarships that you are eligible for, you will need to do some research. For example, when you are putting your initial college list together, you can explore the schools’ websites to determine what scholarships for college and merit-based scholarships they offer. You’ll also find information about academic scholarship requirements and deadlines. 

In addition, you can search online databases like Fastweb or Scholarship America. Fastweb matches students with scholarships for college and merit-based scholarships based on their demographics, location, and interests. Scholarship America allows students to browse through a database of available merit scholarships. 

CollegeAdvisor.com has lots of information on winning merit-based scholarships for college. For example, check out our guides to winning the Coca-Cola Scholarship and Vanderbilt Merit Scholarship

While you do your research and learn more about academic scholarship requirements, keep in mind these three tips. They’ll help improve your chances of winning a merit-based scholarship.

Three tips to help you win merit-based scholarships

uva scholarships

1. Research and meet all academic scholarship requirements

You should research and ensure you meet all of the merit scholarship’s academic requirements. Compare your GPA and your test scores to the thresholds available in the application. Also, take careful note of the deadlines for each application.

2. Plan well in advance

Give yourself time to write and edit any required Jefferson Scholarship essays. Also, give plenty of notice to the teachers, guidance counselors, or coaches from whom you will be requesting letters of recommendation

3. Maximize grades and test scores

Many scholarships for college and merit-based scholarships you apply for will require GPA or test score information. Therefore, work to maximize each of these before applying. This may include planning for some extra study time prior to re-taking the SAT or ACT or investing extra effort into your coursework.

Does UVA have merit scholarships?

Yes! UVA scholarships include two prestigious and highly competitive merit-based scholarships. These include the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship as well as the newer Walentas Scholarship offered to first-generation college students. In 2022, the University of Virginia offered students more merit-based scholarships than ever before. 

It’s important to realize that for aspiring Jefferson scholars to apply for either of these UVA scholarships, their school must nominate them first. From there, nominees for the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship will follow similar processes. According to the university, these UVA scholarship rounds provide potential Jefferson scholars with an opportunity to showcase their exceptional achievements in the areas of “leadership, citizenship, and scholarship.” Several of these rounds include interviews in which students are asked a series of Jefferson Scholarship interview questions.

Let’s dig deeper into the details of each of these UVA scholarships now and what it takes to become a Jefferson Scholarship winner.

jefferson scholars

What is the Jefferson Scholarship?

The University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship is a merit-based UVA scholarship awarded to exceptional undergraduate UVA students by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. It is named after the founder of UVA, Thomas Jefferson, and was first awarded in 1981

The Jefferson Scholars Foundation seeks the most talented students in the world. It awards the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship to approximately 30 selected Jefferson Scholars every year. 

Students who are selected to become Jefferson Scholars have demonstrated extraordinary academic achievements, exceptional leadership ability, and significant and impactful connections with their communities. 

What is the University of Virginia Walentas Scholarship?

The Walentas Scholarship is a UVA scholarship that provides a full four-year scholarship to students who are the first in their family to earn a bachelor’s degree. The Jefferson Scholars Foundation established the Walentas Scholarship through a gift from philanthropists David and Jane Walentas

Approximately 12-15 undergraduate Walentas Scholarships will be awarded to first-generation college students in each entering class. Nominees must be first-generation college students from Virginia or from the five boroughs of New York City, Rochester, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, or St. Louis, Missouri.

Similar to the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation awards the Walentas Scholarship to first-generation college students who have achieved academic excellence and possess strong leadership potential.

What do these UVA Scholarships cover?

Both the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship cover the full cost of attendance at UVA for four years. For Jefferson Scholarship winners, this includes all costs related to tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, board, and personal expenses. 

uva scholarships

The value of these UVA scholarships amounts to about $72,000 per year for each out-of-state Jefferson Scholarship winner. Meanwhile, it’s roughly $36,000 per year to each in-state Jefferson Scholarship winner.

In addition to covering the full cost of attendance, Jefferson Scholars and Walentas Scholars are given funds for supplemental enrichment experiences.

These include:

  • Attendance at the two-week Institute for Leadership and Citizenship during the summer after your first year at UVA
  • A foreign travel/study experience between the second and third year of school, provided by the University’s International Studies Office. This includes the chance to pursue an independent study project
  • Mentoring connections with Jefferson Scholars Foundation alumni
  • Career development services, including funding for unpaid internships
  • Seed funding for commercial or philanthropic enterprises founded by any Jefferson Scholarship winners

How hard is it to get the Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship?

The University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship is a prestigious and highly competitive UVA scholarship. Thousands of students from all around the world are nominated every year to become Jefferson Scholars. They pass through multiple selection rounds that include writing several Jefferson Scholarship essays. Additionally, they must attend live interviews and respond to a series of Jefferson Scholarship interview questions. 

For the entering class of 2022, approximately 2,155 students were nominated by their high schools. Of these, 125 were selected as finalists and 38 were ultimately selected as Jefferson Scholars.

The Walentas Scholarship was founded in 2022. Because this is much more recent than the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship, it’s difficult to tell how hard it is to become a Walentas Scholar. 

However, the process is similar to the Jefferson Scholarship. Therefore, we can assume it will include essays like the Jefferson Scholarship essays and interviews that include questions similar to the Jefferson Scholarship interview questions. It’s also likely to be as competitive as the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship. 

The Jefferson Scholars Foundation has an alumni community of nearly 700 Scholars. Jefferson Scholars live and work all over the world in different professions. These include teachers, doctors, lawyers, researchers, entrepreneurs, veterinarians, parents, poets, musicians, and playwrights. 

Once they’ve graduated from UVA, Jefferson Scholars continue to perform as outstanding and impactful leaders in their fields. Many Jefferson Scholarship winners also choose to continue their academic studies and win other prestigious scholarships and fellowships. 

Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship Eligibility Requirements

Who is eligible for the Jefferson Scholarship?

Participating schools can only nominate one student per year for the Jefferson Scholarship. Therefore, to be eligible, your school must select you. You cannot directly apply to become a Jefferson Scholar without first being nominated. For this reason, by your senior year of high school, you must stand out as the person “who best exemplifies excellence in the areas of leadership, scholarship, and citizenship.”

Aspiring Jefferson Scholars must be nominated by a participating school located in one of the 70 nominating regions. You can confirm your school’s participation by contacting your school counselor. If you apply, be prepared to write several Jefferson Scholarship essays, and respond to a series of Jefferson Scholarship interview questions in later rounds.

Who is eligible for the Walentas Scholarship?

Similar to the Jefferson Scholarship, you cannot apply directly to the Walentas Scholarship. Aspiring Walentas Scholars must be the sole senior selected for this program by their school each year. 

In addition, you must also be a first-generation college student. A first-generation college student is someone whose parents or guardians didn’t earn a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. However, this does not apply to your siblings. Therefore, if you have an older sibling already pursuing a college degree, you are both considered first-generation college students. 

The Walentas Scholarship also has geographic eligibility requirements. To qualify, you must be a high school senior from one of the following areas: Virginia; New York City (any of the five boroughs); Rochester, New York; or St. Louis, Missouri. 

The UVA scholarships committee won’t consider financial need and prior interest in attending the University of Virginia as part of their eligibility requirements.

How do I apply for the Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship?

Presently, let’s look at the specific steps and application materials that the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship programs require. 

These UVA scholarships follow a similar application process, so we will cover the application steps for both the Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship together. 

Please note that you can only apply to one of these UVA scholarship programs. Also, remember that you must be a first-generation college student to apply for the Walentas Scholarship.

Step 1:  Notify your school counselor

As has been noted, the first step in applying to the Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship is for your school to nominate you. Each school gets one nominee, therefore you must be the only student from your school selected to receive the Walentas Scholarship or Jefferson Scholarship nomination. 

In order to do this, notify your school counselor and express your interest in the Jefferson Scholarship or the Walentas Scholarship. Do this as soon as you know you are interested in applying to either of the UVA scholarships.

Step 2: Complete the application

Once you have received the Jefferson Scholarship nomination from your school, you will work together with your school counselor to gather and submit your application materials. These include your scholastic report, a list of extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations, and written responses to two Jefferson Scholarship essays. 

Note that the Jefferson Scholarship nomination is a separate process from applying to UVA through the Common Application. You will still need to apply to UVA separately. Once you’ve submitted your Jefferson Scholarship nomination application, we suggest you start preparing for Jefferson Scholarship interview questions in case you make it to the next round.

Step 3: Regional selection

Regional selection committees are comprised of UVA alumni, prior Jefferson Scholarship winners, and other university-selected individuals. These committees will review all aspects of your Jefferson Scholarship nomination application—transcripts, extracurricular activities, Jefferson Scholarship essay responses, and recommendations. 

Based on this review, the committee will select nominees for one or more rounds of interviews. After selected nominees have answered a series of Jefferson Scholarship interview questions, the committee will then nominate candidates for the final selection round.

Step 4:  Final selection

Finally, the Foundation asks finalists from the regional selection round to participate in another round of Jefferson Scholarship interview questions in March. Those selected in this round are invited to visit the UVA campus in Charlottesville. By mid-April, the Foundation has asked all Jefferson Scholarship winners to make a final decision about whether they will accept the scholarship.

Jefferson Scholarship & Walentas Scholarship-Application Timeline

The deadline for submitting your Jefferson Scholarship nomination materials for either of these UVA scholarships varies by location. Counselors and nominees for the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship must submit a completed Jefferson Scholarship nomination form by December 1. This includes responses to the Jefferson Scholarship essays. Schools in the At-Large region have a separate deadline of November 15. Check with your school counselor which of these deadlines applies to you.

uva scholarships

To present the strongest possible application for these UVA scholarships, you should begin preparing your Jefferson Scholarship nomination application early. The application window opens in August. Therefore, notify your school counselor that you’d like to be nominated for either the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship or the Walentas Scholarship as soon as possible. 

Ask your counselor to work with you to develop a plan for gathering the materials you will need to become a Jefferson Scholar. These will include your academic transcript, a list of extracurricular activities, Jefferson Scholarship essays, and letters of recommendation. You should also begin interview prep in case you are invited to respond to Jefferson Scholarship interview questions in the next round.

UVA Scholarships – Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need to apply to UVA in order to compete for a Walentas Scholarship?

Yes. All nominees should apply to UVA through the Common App by the Regular Decision deadline. Since the UVA scholarship competition is separate from Admissions, nominees may apply to UVA as a Regular Decision, Early Action, or Early Decision applicant.

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

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

Will recipients of the Walentas Scholarship 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.

Will there be an enrichment program associated with the Walentas Scholarship?

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

How to win the Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship- Final Thoughts

There is a lot to consider when applying to college, including working out how to cover the cost of college. Fortunately, there are many merit scholarships available that can cover part, or even all, of the costs of college. Follow these five top tips in order to improve your chances of becoming a Jefferson Scholarship winner, or another highly competitive merit-based scholarship like the Jefferson Scholarship or the Walentas Scholarship.

5 Tips on How to win UVA Scholarships

jefferson scholars

1. Start early

Do your research to determine which scholarships for college are most interesting to you and which ones you qualify for. If you can, find information about prior scholarship winners.

2. Develop a detailed plan

Once you have gathered information about the requirements for your chosen UVA scholarships, create a plan that will help you to shine during the application process. What classes will you take to demonstrate your outstanding academic ability? Which projects or activities will you pursue that align with your genuine interests, and that will allow you leadership opportunities? How will you make a significant positive impact in the world? 

3. Create a team

Your school counselor, teachers, college advisors, and other mentors can provide important support and guidance for you. Therefore, let them know early what your interests and goals are and ask if they have the time and resources to help you. They will almost always say “Yes!”

4. Allow plenty of time

Demonstrating academic and leadership abilities takes time. Impactful results take time. Organizing materials and writing powerful Jefferson Scholarship essays takes time. Therefore, your goal of becoming a successful scholarship applicant, especially for highly selective merit scholarships like the Jefferson Scholarship or Walentas Scholarship, will take time. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

5. Be flexible

Your first plan does not need to be set in stone. You will learn things along the way that you don’t know at the beginning, so allow for some flexibility. For example, you may find out that you’re not as interested in a project or academic area as you thought you were. This is good information, and quite normal. If this happens, you can adjust your plans and focus on something else.

More CollegeAdvisor Merit-Based Scholarship Resources to explore!

When you are ready to begin researching options for scholarships for college, an easy place to start is with the “Financial Aid and Scholarships 101” webinar provided by CollegeAdvisor.

Afterward, you can find more detailed information about financial aid and scholarships for college in our “Financial Aid and Scholarships” webinar as well as the “Finding and Applying to Scholarships” webinar. CollegeAdvisor also has a variety of articles available on CollegeAdvisor.com to help you develop your plan for covering the cost of college.

Remember that the CollegeAdvisor team includes Admissions Experts and scholarship experts available to help you through the research, planning, and application process. Our Success Stories will show you students who’ve successfully applied to and been offered top scholarships for college. 

Whether you need help creating your Jefferson Scholarship essay responses, preparing to respond to Jefferson Scholarship interview questions, or applying to any other scholarship opportunities, our experts can help!

Zell Miller Scholarship

This article was written by Lori Dunlap. If you want to get help with your college applications from Lori or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expertsregister with CollegeAdvisor.com today. Also, check out our other guides to Merit-Based Scholarships as you embark on your college application journey!