UC Santa Cruz-Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Program

The Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Program Award was established in 1993 by former chancellor Karl S. Pister to increase opportunities for talented community college students who want to transfer to UCSC. The awards recognize students who have overcome adverse socioeconomic circumstances, who have a demonstrated commitment to assisting and improving the lives of others, and who might not otherwise be able to attend UCSC for financial reasons.

Candidates are nominated by the presidents of each of the 13 regional community colleges (see list below). The nominations are reviewed by the Leadership Opportunity Awards Review Committee, and one student from each college will be selected to receive up to $20,000 award distributed over two years, wholistic advising support, and assistance in finding paid or volunteer summer work experience.

Please read all of the following before applying. The application personal statement questions are available at the bottom of this page.

Requirements to Apply

  • The applicant must be applying to UC Santa Cruz as a transfer student from one of the 13 participating community colleges.
  • The applicant must have applied for Fall 2024 admission to UC Santa Cruz by submitting the UC Application for Undergraduate Admission and Scholarships.
  • The applicant must apply for financial aid by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application by March 2, 2024. Students on a non-immigrant visa (F-1, J-1, etc.) are not eligible for this award.
  • Obtain one letter of recommendation. The letter should be from an individual who is able to comment on such areas as extracurricular activities, leadership skills, commitment, and dedication. A second letter of recommendation is optional.
  • Obtain transcripts from all colleges attended (unofficial copies are acceptable).

Eligibility Criteria 

  • Show exceptional achievement through academic and extracurricular accomplishments despite adverse socioeconomic conditions;
  • Demonstrate an involvement in activities that assist and improve the lives of others;
  • Exhibit outstanding leadership qualities that reflect the ideals of the Pister Leadership Opportunity Program;
  • Because of financial need, would not otherwise be able to attend UC Santa Cruz;
  • Qualify for Fall 2024 admission to UCSC as a new junior transfer student.


  • Answer the four personal insight questions below and then copy your responses into the online application form. Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words. These questions come from the UC application and you may use your responses from the application for this scholarship. For guidance in answering these questions click here.
  • Have all the application materials on hand before starting the application form. This way you will be able to complete the application in one sitting. The materials needed are; 1) One letter of recommendation as a pdf file, and 2) Unofficial transcripts as pdf files, and 3) Answers to the 4 personal insight questions.
IMPORTANT: Applicants must access the application using a google account. Your google email account will be the email address that we use for all application communication with you.


DEADLINE: MARCH 4, 2024 @ 11:59 PM PST