BOONE — Appalachian State University is rolling out a program called GEAR UP Guarantee that will grant current seniors attending a GEAR UP high school — this includes Watauga High School — that meet specific academic requirements and application deadlines guaranteed admission to Appalachian.

Since 2015, App State has worked with 11 school districts in Western North Carolina to serve more than 15,000 middle and high school students through Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs — otherwise known as GEAR UP. The current senior class is the first to have gone through all four years with the GEAR UP partnership.

The university stated that the collaboration between the partnering school districts and App State will “provide a seamless pathway for high school students to enroll.”

WHS students must meet the following qualifications to be guaranteed admission: a minimum weighted GPA of a 3.50, achievement of the minimum admission requirements and minimum course requirements for admission to the University of North Carolina system and successful completion of a criminal background check and conduct review as required by the UNC system.

The announcement about the program was made during the Watauga County Board of Education meeting on Oct. 14. Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott said that the program would be a great incentive and motivator for WHS students.

“We often have students who have great potential to be successful in college but for whatever reason or another choose not to or financially cannot relocate to pursue post-secondary studies outside of Boone,” Elliott said. “This opens a whole world of other opportunities for our students.”

Cindy Barr, App State’s associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, said during the meeting that the university recognizes the high quality of students coming from WHS.

“We hope that this gives students confidence to apply to Appalachian,” Barr said. “We would love to have them and we hope they feel wanted and recruited.”

GEAR UP Guarantee will provide support to students in completing the admissions process and competing for App State’s most selective signature scholarships and selective academic programs, according to the university. App State spokesperson Megan Hayes said the program covers all GEAR UP high school students through 2023.

“While this program is intended to offer a more flexible and seamless pathway for first-year admission to Appalachian State University, it is important students consider all of their options to best meet their college and career goals,” the university stated. “Students are encouraged to discuss their individual college goals and pathways with a school counselor or college adviser.”

The “early action” application submission deadline for the 2020-21 school year at App State to be considered for scholarships is Nov. 1. All supporting materials are due by Nov. 15. Students who meet the GEAR UP Guarantee requirements can anticipate an admission decision within two to six weeks after completing the admission application, according to the university.

The regular admission deadline is Feb. 1. However, Hayes said the university encourages applications be submitted by the Nov. 1 deadline to allow students the opportunity to be considered for scholarships.

For more information on the GEAR UP program, visit More information on applications for App State can be found at

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