One hundred-fifteen top high school seniors from 32 states and seven foreign countries will begin making their way to Charlottesville Wednesday to participate in the 33rd annual Jefferson Scholars Selection Weekend. Hosted by the University of Virginia’s Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the students will participate in an intensive four-day competition with the hopes of becoming a recipient of the University’s highly coveted Jefferson Scholarship, which covers the full cost of attending the University.
Criteria for selection are demonstrated excellence and exceptional potential in the areas of leadership, scholarship and citizenship. Each finalist boasts accomplishments in all three categories, many serving as student government leaders, honor committee members, varsity sports captains, school newspaper editors, highly skilled artists, actors and musicians, and class valedictorians. The average SAT score among the finalists is 2,209 (on a scale of 2,400), compared to a national average of 1,498. Approximately 66 percent of the finalists received recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
The Jefferson Scholarship covers the full cost of attending the University, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and other expenses. Jefferson Scholars from Virginia receive more than $102,000 over the course of four years; out-of-state or international Jefferson Scholars receive more than $217,000. The foundation currently supports 108 undergraduate students.
The Jefferson Scholars alumni community now stands at more than 600 scholars who live, work and learn all over the world. Many of them have pursued post-graduate academic programs. They serve their communities as teachers, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, poets, musicians, playwrights, and entrepreneurs.
“What makes the Jefferson Scholarship prestigious isn’t simply the financial award that’s tied to it,” said James Wright, president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. “What makes it particularly special is the unique and highly competitive selection process finalists must undergo before being selected.”
This year the Jefferson Scholars Foundation contacted approximately 4,000 secondary schools to invite nominations. “We encouraged schools to nominate one or two seniors who stand out not only as exceptional students inside the classroom, but also as active citizens and effective leaders outside the classroom,” said Ben Skipper, director of the Jefferson Scholars Undergraduate Program.
Nearly 1,500 nominations were submitted and reviewed by regional selection committees across the country. Additional finalists were selected by the U.Va. Office of Admission, which reviews the applications of all students.
This weekend, the finalists will participate in essay and mathematics examinations, as well as seminars led by University faculty members. The Jefferson Scholars Selection Committee, comprised of U.Va. alumni, faculty and administrators, will interview each finalist individually. At the close of the weekend, it is expected that the foundation will offer the Jefferson Scholarship to approximately 30 students.
“The work of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation would not be possible without the support of U.Va. alumni – not only financial support, but also their contributions of time and energy,” Wright said. “This year nearly 700 dedicated alumni have devoted time to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, including serving on the regional selection committees that picked the Jefferson Scholar finalists. There is no other initiative at the University that consistently involves such a large number of alumni in active and productive service on behalf of the institution.”