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Trailblazer Scholars Program

The transition to college is exciting and challenging. As a first-generation college student you’ll want to take advantage of all aspects of university life. That’s why we created the Trailblazers Program.

The Trailblazers Program was launched in 2010 to help first-generation students in the Women’s College make their college dreams a reality. The program provides ongoing, essential support—from the first year to the finish line—to help students during each year of their college experience reap the benefits of college life, earn their degrees, and make their way into the world as Notre Dame graduates. Participation is voluntary and includes a number of outreach, personal development and academic enrichment opportunities.NDMU 2015 Trailblazers

Now a community of over 100 students, the Trailblazers Program provides a sense of belonging and peer community for students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college. First-year Trailblazers are matched with a “Big Sister”—a sophomore, junior, or senior who is a first generation student herself. Big Sisters act as mentors, helping students learn the ropes and get to know Notre Dame. Workshops for first-year Trailblazers are designed to help students make the transition to college life—ranging from Strategies for Academic Success, and College Writing 101, to Wellness & Stress Management, and Time Management. Introductions to the Counseling Center, the Writing Center, and to the Career & Student Success Center help first-year Trailblazers get connected early on to tutoring and personal support services campus.  

Each year, Alumnae Panel Discussions on Majors & Careers provide opportunities for Trailblazers to explore majors and career pathways. While open to all Trailblazers, sophomores are encouraged to attend these, as well as workshops on Choosing a Major and on Internships. A special Winterim Course, Decision Points: Major, Career, Vocation, is offered annually to help Trailblazers explore the connection between their interests, major and career pathways. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are encouraged to take leadership roles as Big Sisters for first-year students, and some serve as peer tutors. Workshops on Resume Writing, Networking and Financial Planning, and Understanding Student Loan Repayment help senior Trailblazers in planning for life’s next steps. Annual workshops on FAFSA Completion and Understanding Your Financial Aid Package, as well as individual assistance, help Trailblazers to maximize their financial aid each year. Moreover, premier internships and research opportunities, as well as study tours in locations in the United States and abroad are available to all Trailblazers.  

We recently celebrated the graduation of the first group of NDMU Trailblazers in 2014 with a special recognition ceremony.

A full-time Director serves as a counselor and mentor for the Trailblazers, providing one-on-one guidance and assistance.

There’s support for parents and families of Trailblazers, too—through the Trailblazers Parents & Family Academy.

External funding for the Trailblazers Program has been provided by grants from the Walmart College Success Awards Program through the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Walmart Foundation, and from the state of Maryland. 


The Trailblazer Scholars application can be completed online. A paper copy will also be available this summer at registration days and at fall orientation. If you would like preliminary information about the program now, please refer your questions to Tiffany Lathan Smith at tlathansmith@ndm.edu or 410-532-5813.