Santa Clara University

LEAD Scholars Program

About the LEAD Scholars Program

LEAD - Leadership Excellence and Academic Development - The LEAD Scholars Program is a four-year program for first generation college students (students whose parents did not attend college) focused on academics, community engagement, and service. Administered by the University Honors Program, this program begins in the freshman year to ensure students’ smooth transition from high school to college. It continues through students’ senior year by connecting students with internships, graduate school preparation, and leadership opportunities.

Participation in the program is by invitation only. Students are selected because they have the distinction of being among the first members of their families to attend college. Selection for the LEAD Scholars Program begins immediately after the May 1st SCU enrollment deposit deadline.

Students participating in the LEAD Scholars program must also live in one of the following residence halls during their first year: Unity, CyPhi, Xavier or Communitas. Commuter students are also welcome to participate in the program and, while not living in the residence halls, must still have one of these four as their designated RLC.

If you fit these criteria, will be attending SCU, and would like to find out more information about the program or would like to express your interest in the program, please contact our offices. If you contact us by May 1st we will be able to consider your interest in our selection process. However, contacting us does not guarantee your selection into the program.

Program Components

This program academically challenges students while also exposing them to university culture and community. The program also provides academic and advising support, peer mentoring, and community building. The majority of programs take place during students’ freshman year to ensure a successful transition from high school to college. We are also currently expanding our programming to include workshops and other programs to address the interests of sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Summer before Freshman Year

Incoming LEAD Scholars and their families are asked to attend New Student Orientation session 5 or session 6. Attendance at one of these two sessions is highly preferred, but not required. At these two orientation sessions, we offer programs specifically for LEAD Scholars and their families. LEAD Scholars will be introduced to the program and begin to explore their courses with faculty and staff from the LEAD Scholars Program. We also hold a dinner for LEAD Scholars and their families to connect with faculty, staff and students in the program.

Freshman Year

LEAD Week*

LEAD Week takes places the week before fall quarter begins. This program is a one-week program that is of no cost to student participants. Students are introduced to the academics of Santa Clara University by beginning their English 1 class early. They also take a one-week elective course of their choosing in such fields as Engineering, Chemistry, Business or Religious Studies. LEAD Week also offers workshops that familiarize students with university resources and culture. Lastly, peer mentors coordinate a various team-building activities to engage students and foster community among LEAD Scholars. Click here for more information on LEAD Week.

English 1A and 2A*

LEAD Scholars take the freshman required courses, English 1A and 2A within the LEAD Scholars Program. These courses begin during LEAD Week and continue through fall and winter quarters of their first year. Students take English 1A and 2A with the same instructor and students. These instructors for the LEAD Scholars English 1A and 2A have been specially selected because of their interest in working with first generation college students. These two courses provide an academic foundation for students, allowing them to fulfill their Critical Thinking and Writing requirement within an academically challenging and supportive environment.

LEAD Seminar 1 and 2*

In their freshmen year, LEAD Scholars also take LEAD 1 and 2, the LEAD Seminars during fall and winter quarters. This is a 2 unit course that addresses students’ transition to college. In the first quarter, students explore various resources on campus and how these resources can assist them in a successful transition to college. In LEAD 2 during winter quarter, students explore campus leadership opportunities and how to take advantage of these opportunities. For example they will learn about orientation leader and community facilitator positions, and develop their resume-writing and interviewing skills.

* While participation in the LEAD Scholars Program is optional, once a student agrees to participate these 4 components: LEAD Week, LEAD English 1A and 2A, LEAD Seminar 1 and 2, and fulfilling the participation requirement (outlined below) are mandatory. All other components of the programs are optional.

Students living on and off campus are welcome in the LEAD Scholars Program. Each of these students, however must be a member of one of four Residential Learning Communities (RLCs): Communitas, CyPhi, Xavier, or Unity. This allows for students to continue community building with LEAD Scholars in their RLCs. For students living on campus, this means you must live in one of these halls. For students living off campus, it means that you will be a member of this RLC granting you access to the residence hall, providing you information about RLC programs and generally becoming a part of that community. Please note this when indicating your RLC preferences on your housing or commuter application in ecampus.

Freshman Through Senior Years


The LEAD Scholars Program offers personalized advising and support to participants. Dedicated faculty and staff are happy to address any interests or concern you may have.


The LEAD Scholars Program offers workshops each quarter to help students explore opportunities at SCU and beyond while addressing the unique interests and concerns of first generation college students. Such workshops include study abroad and preparing for law school.

Priority Registration

LEAD Scholars receive priority registration, allowing participants to register before other students within their class.

Participation Requirement

To maintain connections to the LEAD Scholars community and continue their own personal and academic growth, LEAD Scholars must participate in two LEAD Scholars activities per year. These activities include attending or planning a LEAD event, or being a tour guide or panelist for a LEAD-sponsored tour for K-12 students.  Please consult with the Assistant Director about other ways to fulfill the requirement. Those students who do not fulfill their participation requirement will have their priority registration suspended.

Special Topics Seminars

The LEAD Scholars Program also offers courses to support students in their academics and help them fulfill their core requirements within the LEAD community.

LEAD 9 and 12: These two courses, Quantitative Skills in Chemistry and Problem Solving Skills in CHEM respectively,  are taken in conjuction with CHEM 11 and 12. This workshop-style course is designed to reinforce topics in mathematics and approaches to problem solving that ofter serve as barriers to successful performance in general chemistry. A typical class will include an introduction to a quantitative concept, both its context and application, followed by worksheets and possibly student work "at the board" to move a small group of learners along the path to more competence and confidence in quantitative skills and problem solving reasoning.

LEAD 10: Difficult Dialogues are designed for first and second year students. Currently, the Difficult Dialogues course topic is Creating College Going Communities. This course provides an opportunity for first and second year students to fulfill their Experiential Learning for Social Justice core requirement by learning about college access issues for underrepresented students and leading college workshops at high schools with high populations of first generation college students.

LEAD 100: Advanced Difficult Dialogues, a seminar for juniors and seniors that fosters the development of research and writing skills while helping students to explore vocation and other life-after-college concerns.

Senior Celebration

All LEAD Scholars are invited to celebrate the graduation of our senior LEAD Scholars. Each year we come together to hear from our seniors and celebrate this significant accomplishment.

Transfer Student Participation

The majority of LEAD Scholars are first year freshmen, but we do have a small, but important group of transfer students who also participate in the program. These students receive all of the benefits of the program as listed above. They are also required to participate in LEAD Week. There is flexibility in terms of fulfilling course requirements depending on what courses they have already participated in. Transfer students are required to take ENGL 1A and 2A in the LEAD Scholars Program only if they have not fulfilled this requirement. They are required to take the LEAD Week Elective Course.

Transfer LEAD Scholars are also expected to attend all of the other components of LEAD Week. Additionally, if they have fulfilled ENGL 1A, they are required to attend a transfer student meeting from 9-11 a.m., Monday-Friday of LEAD Week while the other LEAD Scholars are their English class.

Lastly, like all other LEAD Scholars, transfer student must participate in LEAD Scholars Seminar 1 and 2 during fall and winter quarters of their first year. They must also fulfill the other requirements of the program, namely the participation requirement, and they are welcome to participate in our optional courses.

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