Learn How to Become an Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholar


The Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars Program is a competitive scholarship for recent high school graduates with a passion for teaching and a history of high academic achievement, community service, and active involvement in extracurricular activities while in high school. Recipients will receive $10,000 per year for up to four years (up to the cost of tuition and fees, room and board, and other approved educational expenses). In exchange, Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars must agree to teach in a West Virginia public school in an area of critical need (math, science, elementary education or special education) for a period of five years after graduating from college.

The scholarship may be used at any eligible West Virginia public or private, non-profit college or university offering West Virginia Board of Education-approved teacher preparation programs in math, science, elementary education, or special education. Each year, we will accept up to 25 new Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars from a national applicant pool. Continue reading to learn more about program eligibility, the application process, and post-graduation service requirements.


  Minimum Eligibility Requirements

You may apply to become an Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholar if you meet the following minimum requirements.

  • High school senior or recent high school graduate with plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in an approved teacher preparation program in math, science, elementary education or special education at an eligible West Virginia institution;
  • Has never been enrolled as a degree-seeking student at college or university;
  • Achieved a cumulative high school grade point average of at least 3.25 on 4.0 scale, or an equivalent grade point average based on an individual school district's grading policy;
  • Earned minimum ACT scores of 21 in math and 18 in English, or minimum SAT scores of 530 in math and 480 in English - NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited standardized testing opportunities, the test score requirement has been removed for the 2021-22 application process;
  • Must be a United States citizen or hold a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD), or work permit, issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office; and
  • Willing to teach in a West Virginia public school for five years after college graduation in the fields of math, science, elementary education, or special education. Applicants are NOT required to be residents of the state of West Virginia; and
  • Must be willing to attend the award banquet and Student Success Summit event in Morgantown, WV, in late July 2021 (date TBD). Lodging costs will be paid by the Higher Education Policy Commission for Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars.

  Application Process

  Round 1:

The first stage in the application process is called "Pre-Qualification." Any student who meets the minimum qualifications described above may submit a preliminary application online. The preliminary application collects basic information about the applicant and authorizes our Division of Financial Aid to access electronic high school transcripts and standardized test scores. Applicants who did not complete a traditional program of study at a West Virginia public high school may be asked to submit additional documentation. Applications are due by December 31, 2020.  Click the Apply Now link at the top of the page to submit your application.

  Round 2:
Formal Application (by Invitation)

A select group of the most qualified applicants from Round 1 will be invited to submit a more extensive application packet designed to provide the review committee with a better sense of the applicant's academic accomplishments, involvement in extracurricular activities, and passion for pursuing a career as a public school teacher. Information collected from this round will be used to select a small group of finalists who will move on to Round 3.

  Round 3:
Final Round

Finalists will be asked to submit a short (3-5 minute) video highlighting past experiences or future ambitions that have driven them to a career as a professional educator. Video submissions will be reviewed by an award committee representing higher education, public education and the community at large.

  Maintaining and Renewing the Scholarship

  Academic Requirements

In order to maintain the scholarship, Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars must meet the following requirements while enrolled in college:

  • Must be enrolled full-time in an approved teacher preparation program at an eligible West Virginia college or university;
  • Must maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by the institution of higher education the recipient is attending;
  • Must maintain a cumulative college grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale;
  Additional Requirements

Outside of the formal classroom environment, Underwood-Smith scholars will be expected to:

  • Communicate regularly with their assigned teacher mentor;
  • Attend the annual Student Success Summit event in Morgantown, WV (held in mid- to late-July each year). Lodging costs will be paid by the Higher Education Policy Commission; and
  • Participate in required professional development opportunities, including but not limited to attendance at at least two local or regional conferences in the junior and senior years of college.

  Service Obligation

After graduation, Underwood-Smith Teaching Scholars are required to teach at a West Virginia public school in the fields of math, science, elementary education or special education under contract with a county board of education for a period of five consecutive years. Timely submission of all required employment verification documents is required.


Recipients who do not meet the minimum service obligation will be required to make monetary repayment of the scholarship, plus any accrued interest and fees. Deferments may be granted for graduates who are still enrolled in a full-time course of study at an accredited institution of higher education, or are serving as a member of the armed forces of the United States (not to exceed four years).