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If you’re a West Virginian high schooler looking for ways to finance your college education, consider the West Virginia Promise Scholarship, a lucrative, merit-based scholarship open to graduating seniors. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this opportunity to best prepare you for college and scholarship application season!

What is the West Virginia Promise Scholarship? 

Funded by the West Virginia State Legislature, the West Virginia Promise Scholarship (a.k.a. PROMISE) was established in 1999 in order to provide full tuition assistance for students to a West Virginian public or private college or university. 

Alongside the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission organizes the Promise scholarship as part of its mission— “To equip 60 percent of the Mountain State’s workforce with a formal credential beyond high school by 2030.” About 10,000 college students receive this scholarship each year (costing the state more than $45 million yearly, funded by state lottery and other revenues). 

The West Virginia Promise Scholarship (PROMISE: Providing Real Opportunities for Maximizing Instate Student Excellence) is one of the most special scholarships for West Virginia students due to its reasonable barrier to entry and award amount. This scholarship is purely based on academic eligibility, not taking into account family income or any other factors. The requirements have been slightly increased over the years in efforts to limit the number of awards, then slightly lowered for 2022-23 graduates due to impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

How Much is the Award, and is it Worth Applying For?

As of the 2022-23 school year, the West Virginia Promise Scholarship will pay awardees up to $5,000 per year to attend an eligible college or university. If tuition and fees are less than $5k after financial aid, the scholarship will cover the remaining cost of attendance.

This award will be paid directly to the institution they attend, only applicable to four semesters for two-year degree programs or eight semesters for four-year degree programs. Students must use these funds within six years of being awarded the scholarship (unless enrolled in the military).

Is the award worth it? If you’re a high school student in West Virginia planning to attend a college or university in the same state—absolutely. In combination with any Pell Grants or other financial aid, the Promise scholarship could help you cover all of your college expenses. Even if you aren’t expecting financial aid, $5,000 a semester is nothing to ignore. College expenses vary across universities, but in-state tuition for public West Virginia colleges is typically less than $10,000 a year—as such, this scholarship would cover over half of a year’s tuition.

Where can Scholarship Recipients Attend?

This scholarship may be used at eligible institutions, which are accredited in-state public and private colleges and universities—including the following top colleges in West Virginia:

1. West Virginia University

A public university located in Morgantown, West Virginia, WVU is an R1 research institution. It has a population of about 20,000 undergraduate students, an acceptance rate of 84%, and is most well known for its forensics and biometrics programs.

2. Marshall University

A smaller public institution, Marshall University has an undergraduate population of about 7,500 students and an acceptance rate of 89%. Located in Huntington, WV, Marshall is known for its business programs and athletics.

3. Shepherd University

Located in Shepherdstown, WV, Shepherd University is a public liberal arts college; as such, its class sizes are smaller and the institution has a different culture than larger universities. Shepherd has an acceptance rate of 98% and an undergraduate population of less than 3,000.

4. Wheeling University

A private Roman Catholic university located in Wheeling, WV, Wheeling University, also known as Wheeling Jesuit University, has an acceptance rate of 77% and an undergraduate population of only 580.

5. The University of Charleston

With a main campus in Charleston and an additional location in Beckley, the University of Charleston is a private university with about 1,900 undergraduates and an acceptance rate of 61%.

Promise Scholarship Requirements — Who is Eligible for the Award, and When Do You Apply?

Are you eligible to receive this scholarship? The Promise scholarship is intended for West Virginia students to attend in-state colleges and universities. In order to qualify, students must meet several requirements in order to qualify for PROMISE. They must:

  • Have resided in West Virginia for at least the past 12 consecutive months (prior to applying).
  • Complete the high school graduation requirements for a West Virginia (public or private) high school, including all minimum core class requirements (4 credits of English, Math, and Social Sciences and 3 credits of Natural Sciences).
  • Have a cumulative high school GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (or, a “B” average) in all core courses and overall coursework.
  • Meet the required minimum ACT or SAT scores.
  • Complete the FAFSA form.
  • Fill out the PROMISE application.

Students who meet all scholarship requirements will receive an award. Current seniors must apply for the Promise scholarship and the FAFSA by March 1st, 2023, and they will be notified about their reward in April or May of 2023.

Even though the scholarship isn’t need-based, filling out the FAFSA is required in order to maximize the federal funding students are awarded for college. Promise awards must be applied after federal aid/grants are applied, and any funds coming through the FAFSA application must be prioritized above Promise scholarship funds. 

Filling out an application for the Promise scholarship is straightforward and fully digital. Students who wish to apply must make a West Virginia Student Aid Management account and simply create a new application in their portal. Only a page long, the Promise scholarship application form requires information about the applicant’s residency in West Virginia, their high school, and the institution they plan to attend. Applicants can monitor the status of their application through this portal, and once their application is reviewed and approved, an award will appear alongside the application.

Test Score Requirements

As mentioned above, students must meet certain test score criteria for this scholarship. They must qualify with the following minimum scores on either the ACT or SAT:

ACT Minimum Requirements:

  • Composite score: 21
  • ACT English: 19
  • ACT Reading: 19
  • ACT Science: 19
  • ACT Math: 19

SAT Minimum Requirements:

  • Total score: 1080
  • SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 510
  • SAT Math: 510

How achievable are these scores? Well, a composite ACT score of 21 is in the 59th percentile of scorers, and the average ACT score for the 2020-21 school year was 20.7. Students are generally advised to aim for a composite score of 24, which is around the 74th percentile. For the SAT: the average score in 2021 was 1060, and a total score of 1080 is in the 63rd percentile. So, the requirement for a minimum score of 21 on the ACT and a 1080 on the SAT are definitely achievable with studying and taking practice tests—both are slightly above-average scores.

These test scores must be met by the ACT July 2023 test date or the SAT June 2023 test date, and students are allowed to use a superscore to achieve the minimum requirements.

Similar Scholarship Opportunities

Perhaps the West Virginia Promise Scholarship isn’t for you, or you’re looking for additional scholarship opportunities to supplement your college funds. These need-based and merit scholarships are achievable ways for West Virginian students (and students open to attending college and working in West Virginia) to fund their college education!

1. The West Virginia Higher Education Grant

Are you a low-income West Virginia student looking for need-based scholarships? The West Virginia Higher Education Grant may be for you.

This scholarship requires no outside application forms—completing the FAFSA automatically enrolls you in consideration for this scholarship. Applicants must be United States citizens and residents of West Virginia set to graduate high school with a 2.0 GPA to be eligible. Further, applicants must be enrolling as a full-time undergraduate student in an eligible West Virginia or Pennsylvania institution. The maximum award amount for the 2022-23 school year was $3,200. Awards are based on demonstrated financial need and may be renewed each year.

2. The National Merit Scholarship Program

The only scholarship on this list open to students from any state, the National Merit® Scholarship Program is for high-performing high schoolers that excel on the PSAT.

On high school juniors’ PSAT (Preliminary SAT) test day, they will automatically apply for this scholarship along with their test forms, and the highest scoring students have a chance to earn this award of $2,500 a year. Of the approximately 1.5 million participating students nationwide, 16,000 students become semifinalists on a state-by-state basis. Finally, 2,500 finalist students qualify for the scholarship. Requirements include high school graduation, enrollment in college or university, a record of high academic achievement, and more.

3. The West Virginia Engineering, Science, and Technology Scholarship 

The West Virginia STEM Scholarship provides up to $3,000 per academic year to students pursuing careers in engineering, science, and/or technology, with priority given to West Virginia residents. 

Applicants must be United States citizens or legal residents with a 3.0 GPA to be eligible. Further, students are required to (1) be enrolled or accepted to pursue a STEM program for a certification, associate, or bachelor’s degree, and (2) agree to work in an engineering, science, or technology field in West Virginia full-time for one year for each year the student received the scholarship. So, for example, students who are awarded this scholarship for their bachelor’s degree in STEM must agree to work in a West Virginian full-time STEM job for four years; otherwise, they must repay the scholarship.

The deadline for the West Virginia STEM Scholarship is March 1st, 2023.

4. Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars Program

Would you like to teach in West Virginia? The Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars Program provides up to $10,000 per year to students who plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a teaching program at a West Virginia university.

Applicants must have earned a 3.25 GPA along with minimum ACT or SAT test scores (ACT: 21 in math, 18 in English; SAT: 530 in math, 480 in English) to qualify. In order to be an Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholar, you must be willing to (1) attend a university in West Virginia for a teaching program, and (2) teach for five years after college in a West Virginia public school. Applicants are not required to be residents of West Virginia.

The deadline for this application is December 31st, 2022.

5. The Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation and Affiliates Scholarships

If you live in Eastern West Virginia, explore what the EWVCF and its affiliates can have to offer for your education! Various scholarships are available, depending on the county you live in, with awards ranging from $500 to $6,000.

Peruse through their extensive listing of scholarships to see if there’s anything that fits your intended area of study, and make sure to apply by the deadline—March 3rd, 2023.

Meet the Award Requirements—Prep for the SAT and ACT with Piqosity!

Remember—in order to be eligible for the West Virginia Promise Scholarship, you must meet the minimum test score requirements. Further, your test scores will contribute to your admissions at any of the state’s universities you apply to. Piqosity offers full, reasonably priced SAT and ACT test prep courses that can help you qualify for this opportunity!

Joining Piqosity is FREE (no credit card information required, no sneaky fine-print trials). We offer a full SAT test prep course and a full ACT test prep course, each starting at just $89 with alternative pricing for schools and educators. Each course comes with 10 full-length practice tests, concept review lessons to refresh your memory, and analysis of your personal strengths and weaknesses, together with a predicted test score based on your performance. We’ll be with you every step of the way, so don’t wait—begin your test preparation journey with Piqosity today!

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