Santa Clara University

LEAD Scholars Program

About the LEAD Scholars Program

LEAD - Leadership Excellence and Academic Development - The LEAD Scholars Program is a 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 is open to both first year students and transfer students, supporting them throughout their college career. 

Students are selected to participate in the LEAD Scholars Program. All admitted first generation college students are informed about the program soon after they are admitted to the university, and are asked to indicate if they are interested. Based on this information, students are then selected keeping in mind the goal to create a diverse community in terms of backgrounds and experiences. 

Both students living on and off campus are welcome to participate in the program. All first year students are required to join a Residential Learning Community (RLC) whether they will be living on campus or not. First year on-campus LEAD Scholars are required to live in one of the following residence halls during their first year: Unity, CyPhi, Xavier or Communitas. Off-campus first year students are required to be a member of one of these same RLCs (Unity, CyPhi, Xavier, Communitas), but are not required to live in the residence hall. 

On-campus LEAD Scholar transfer students are not required to join one of the designated LEAD RLCs and instead are able to live in any residence hall on campus. Off-campus transfer students are not required to join an RLC. 

If you are a first generation college student, 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. 

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 Incoming Year

We recommend that first year incoming LEAD Scholars and their families attend New Student Orientation session 3 or session 4. Attendance at one of these two sessions is highly preferred, but not required. At these two orientation sessions, we  hold a dinner for LEAD Scholars and their families to learn more about the program and connect with involved faculty, staff and students. Students attending sessions 1, 2, 5, or 6 will meet with a LEAD Scholars Program staff member to learn more about the program. Because LEAD Week (see below) conflicts with orientation session 7, we strongly recommend that students do not participate in session 7. If you need to participate in session 7, you will receive information about LEAD, and a schedule that accommodates both the LEAD Week and Orientation schedules. 

Transfer students should plan to attend Transfer Orientation on the Friday before classes begin. 

Incoming 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.

First year students and transfer students who have not completed their introductory English are introduced to the academics of Santa Clara University by beginning their English 1 class during this first week. Transfer student who have completed their introductory English courses begin their LEAD 101, college transition seminar course during LEAD Week.

All participants 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*

First year LEAD Scholars take the required courses, English 1A and 2A within the LEAD Scholars Program. Transfer students who have not fulfilled their introductory English courses are also required to take these courses. 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 or LEAD 101*

In their first year, first 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.

Transfer students are required to take LEAD 101, the transfer student LEAD Seminar in fall quarter. This course introduces students to resources and leadership opportunities on campus with a special focus on vocation and career. 

Residential Learning Community Requirement

First year 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.

Transfer students living on campus are not required to live in one of the LEAD designated RLCs. Off-campus transfer students are not required to be a member of an RLC. 

* While participation in the LEAD Scholars Program is optional, once a first year 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. Similarly transfer students are required to participate in LEAD Week, LEAD English 1A and 2A (only if introductory English has not been completed elsewhere), LEAD Seminar 101 and the participation requirement. 

Throughout your SCU Career


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 three 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 Associate 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.

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