Skip to main content

Kessler Scholars Program

Kessler Scholars Cohort

Founded at the University of Michigan by the Judy and Fred Wilpon Family Foundation, the Kessler Scholars Program has established a leading support model for first-generation students. The program is distinct in that it provides comprehensive support through wrap-around, multi-tiered services to ensure students’ success from admissions through graduation

Cultivating a community built on success.

The Kessler Scholars Program at the University of Pittsburgh is part of the national Kessler Scholars Collaborative along with 15 other institutions. Together, these schools are transforming the undergraduate experience for first-generation college students. Students who join the Kessler Scholars Program are part of a powerful network of first-generation leaders, connected across multiple institutions throughout their undergraduate college experience and beyond.

Putting First Gen First.

The Kessler Scholars Program provides holistic support for a diverse community of high-achieving students who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year college degree. Combining financial resources with cohort-based engagement and individualized guidance, the Kessler Scholars Program provides first-generation college students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and to thrive on campus and beyond. The program is built around three key, student-centered principles: Support • Community • Success

Support right from the start.

The pursuit of a four-year college degree can be particularly challenging to navigate for first generation students whose family members cannot easily provide guidance about the often complex and unwritten rules of higher education. Providing multi-faceted, transformative support to first generation students across their undergraduate journey and beyond is at the core of the Kessler Scholars Program.

The Kessler Scholars Program combines financial resources with broader support centered along two crucial and complementary pathways. First, dedicated professional staff exists to advise, steer, and support students across their four-year journey via individual engagement and connection. Equally important, peer guidance and mentorship provides students with the incomparable, first-hand perspectives of those who have gone before.

An instant community that cares.

There is no substitute for the solid foundation of a diverse, compassionate, community of peers to help first-generation college students succeed. The Kessler Scholars Program is designed with a committed and intentional focus on cohort-based community via group classes, events, and support systems that build a true focus on actual peers. Kessler Scholars work together to build a sense of belonging and shared identity to create networks intended to last well beyond their four years on campus.

Students in the Kessler Scholars Program are part of a community that they help shape. The program values and centers the voices and involvement of its scholars to grow and evolve program activities in a way that meets–and exceeds–student-identified needs and goals.

Success without boundaries.

The Kessler Scholars Program’s ultimate aim is to provide the resources and support necessary so that first-generation college students don’t just survive college but that they thrive – making their mark as strong leaders on campus, in their communities, and beyond. To that end, the program leverages Kessler Scholars’ strengths in pursuit of their academic, professional and personal goals. The program seeks to connect students with transformative experiential opportunities, including study abroad, research, and internships and with alumni who have traveled similar paths.

College success stretches well beyond the boundaries of campus and a four-year experience. The Kessler Scholars Program is designed to ensure first-generation college students have the resources and support to achieve it.

Kessler Scholars at Pitt

Across their four-year journey, Kessler Scholars are part of a close-knit community of students empowered with resources and opportunities to connect with faculty, alumni, and leaders on the University of Pittsburgh campus and beyond:

  • You must attend the Provost Academy, an onboarding summer experience before the semester start.
  • You must maintain full-time enrollment and earn at least 30 credits per academic year.
  • You must maintain a 2.5 GPA.
  • You must participate in Kessler Scholars programming, advising, events, and the Academic Success Academy Workshop Series
  • You must enroll in the 1-credit Kessler Scholar seminar class
  • For Kessler Scholars, the University will meet full financial need after the expected family contribution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply for the Kessler Scholars Program at Pitt?

Beginning in Fall 2023, students must be an admitted Pitt first-time, first-year student to apply to the inaugural Kessler Scholars cohort.

Students must be a first-generation college student (you are the first person in your immediate family to attend college).

Students must also be eligible for Pell financial aid.

Students must undergo an interview process and will be selected based on interest in the program, high school accomplishments, and leadership potential.

What are the benefits to being a Kessler Scholar at Pitt?

The University of Pittsburgh Kessler Scholars Program provides students four years of holistic academic, financial, and social support to exceptional students who are among the first in their family to attend college, helping them forge their own path and achieve their dreams. As a high-touch cohort model, the asset-based program will provide students with a welcoming, close-knit community at Pitt. Alongside professional staff and a network of campus community partners, scholars will be prepared for lives of impact through educational experiences tailored to their specific goals and needs.  

At Pitt, you will receive:

  • Personalized advising and coaching each semester
  • Leadership development through workshops to assist with academic skills
  • Community and cohort building which provide opportunities for meaningful connections
  • Educational enrichment opportunities, such as cultural trips, research, and mentoring
What does it mean to meet full financial need after expected family contribution?

After your financial aid package is finalized with a Pell Grant and any additional aid (which can include federal and state grants, work-study dollars, University scholarships and grants, and/or federal loans)—your Cost of Attendance will be fully met once your financial aid and Federal Expected Family Contribution has been taken into consideration.

Does this mean I can go to the University of Pittsburgh for free?

You will either receive a minimum of $2000 in a University scholarship and, if you are Pell-eligible, the University will meet full financial need. The scholarship and aid can be used to cover tuition and room & board.

How do I apply?

Applications for the Fall 2023 cohort are currently closed. Recruitment for the Fall 2024 cohort will begin in the coming months.

The Kessler Scholars Program supports first-generation/Pell Grant-eligible students like you as they turn their goals and dreams into reality. Together, we put First Gen First.

 First Gen First seal