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PEN Scholars Application

July 15th deadline for submission - APPLY TODAY!

The PEN Scholars program provides wrap around support services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds including financial, advising, coaching, tutoring and mentoring support.  Students selected for the PEN Scholars program will have a dedicated faculty advisor and support from a SON academic advisor, who will assess the student’s individuals needs and provide support and referrals for other resources, such as writing, tutoring and other student support services. Financial support is also available for PEN Scholars. PEN Scholars will also be part of a learning community to provide a cohort of support.  PEN Scholars can also receive coaching and mentoring from a holistic nurse coach as well as an assigned nurse mentor.

The WCU School of Nursing is committed to creating a culture that supports the University’s goal of inclusive excellence.  The PEN Scholars program seeks to provide culturally responsive wrap around support services to promote successful admission, progression, and completion of undergraduate nursing degree programs within the School of Nursing to enhance the diversity of the nursing workforce and better care for the communities we serve.   

For disadvantaged students who have been admitted to WCU and are planning to apply to one of our BSN program offerings, the PEN Scholars program will provide specific support services through a dedicated academic and faculty advisor.  Students admitted to the PEN Scholars program will also participate in a learning community to create a cohort of peer support. Through this support, the PEN Scholars program can leverage existing support programs at WCU to improve disadvantaged students’ ability to be successful in being admitted to one of our competitive BSN programs. 

Students from disadvantaged backgrounds accepted to the PEN Scholars program who have been admitted to one or our BSN program offerings also will receive specific academic advising support, engage in virtual learning communities, and have access to peer academic coaches, dedicated faculty advising support, along with support from a nurse mentor during their final year in the nursing program  and during their first year of practice to provide support for participants as they transition from school to practice and enter the nursing workforce.

To be eligible to apply for the PEN Scholars program, you need to be from one of the following backgrounds:

  • Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) or other Native American 
  • First generation college student in your family 
  • Having an annual household income which falls at or below 200% of federal poverty level guidelines.  (200% of FPL for individuals in 2021 is $25,760) 
  • Minority status (by race or ethnicity) 

Admission decisions for the PEN Scholars program are made twice per year. Students may be able to receive support for multiple semesters but must maintain eligibility requirements and reapply each year. Applications are due July 15 and November 15 each year. If you need assistance completing an application, please email Thom Newkirk, Student Success Specialist at

Application Form

The PEN Scholars program uses a holistic admission process. Program staff  and a trained faculty admissions team review applications for eligibility criteria.  Personal essays, which seek to identify applicants’ experiences and attributes are scored using a rubric by a trained faculty admissions committee.  For more information on scoring criteria see the Scoring Rubric used for admission to the PEN Scholars program.

Admission decisions will be made prior to the beginning of the fall semester for applications submitted by July 15 and prior to spring semester for applications submitted by November 15. Pathways to Equity in Nursing program staff will work with PEN Scholars to arrange financial aid and other stipend support.

If selected as a PEN Scholar, the SON is making a sizeable investment in your success.  To that end, this program is intended to be a partnership, and participants are expected to:

  • Engage with your support team:
    • Participate in one-on-one meetings each semester with the Student Success Advisor.
    • Meet at least once per semester with your PEN Scholar Faculty Advisor.
  • Participate in the PEN Scholars training program offerings and learning/affinity community groups.
  • Maintain minimum GPA of 3.0 for at least two consecutive semesters.
  • Commit to limiting work to no more than  20 hours per week**.

**we recognize some participants may not be able to achieve this goal

Still have questions? Email

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