Kessler Scholars Program

Kessler Scholars logo

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.

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.

Program Recruitment Message from Director April Belback

Or watch the program recruitment video on Vimeo. 

For Kessler Scholars, the University will meet full financial need after the expected family contribution. Students will also benefit from a wide range of support - both academic and personal - designed specifically to meet the needs of students who are the first in their family to pursue a college degree. 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.

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.

What are the requirements on being a Kessler Scholar at Pitt?

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 workshops.

How do I apply?

Did you receive an invitation from our team? Fill out the Calendly form in that email to set up a 30-minute interview to apply to the program.

What if I have questions?

Reach out to our team any time at and we are happy to help!

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