ACES Scholarship

UNC Asheville's Atmospheric and Computer Science Exploratory Scholars (ACES) Program gives students financial support as well as the unique opportunity to conduct ground-breaking research, gain experience teaching at local schools, and receive academic support from peer and faculty mentors. Scholarship awards are sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and students can receive up to $6,000 per year, per student.

ACES will add to the knowledge of the effectiveness of community-based atmospheric science and computer science (A&CS) undergraduate learning experiences by:

  • building cohorts for Atmospheric Sciences and Computer Science students to establish support groups designed to encourage early academic success
  • monitoring student progress through a student management team
  • offering help to struggling students by providing peer tutors to assist in low- and mid-level A&CS science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses
  • enlisting peer and faculty mentors to help resolve issues inside and outside the classroom
  • providing opportunities for students to engage in activities in three discipline areas (research, teaching, and operations) to expand the types of A&CS STEM career options under consideration by undergraduates.


UNC Asheville is nationally recognized for excellence in undergraduate research. ACES scholars are automatically eligible to participate in all aspects of research supported at UNC Asheville; from data collection associated with traditional field work, to data analysis and the presentation of scientific findings through presentations at seminars and professional conferences and through the publication of articles in conference volumes and scientific journals.


ACES scholars are also automatically eligible to investigate teaching opportunities by serving as laboratory assistants, course mentors, and course tutors associated with low- and mid-level courses at UNC Asheville, and as K–12 science and college outreach presenters at Asheville area schools.


ACES scholars receive support via an extensive mentorship network. Faculty and peer mentors provide support for academic and non-academic issues and organize social gatherings to assist cohort building. Scholars are also placed in cohort course sections and living arrangements that foster opportunities for collaboration and interaction among students majoring in the Atmospheric and Computer Sciences. By enrolling students in the same course sections, personal connections and academic networks are formed early and maintained throughout the scholar's academic career. Upper-level ACES scholars will serve as peer mentors as they approach the successful completion of their experience at UNC Asheville by sharing their knowledge about wise academic decision-making, time management, study skills, and adjustment practices with incoming scholars.


Exploration of real-time activities is also encouraged for ACES scholars through the analysis and dissemination of hazardous weather-related conditions via the posting of publicly-accessible weather forecast videos and customized web-pages to notify Asheville area residents of predicted weather impacts. Scholars are also encouraged to participate in "Career Night" presentations organized by UNC Asheville's Career Center and in internship opportunities that provide valuable work experience and insights into real-world career paths.

How to Apply

Applications are closed for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Student Selection Process

The application process is designed to recruit top graduating high school seniors and to select college scholars from among students who have chosen to transfer to UNC Asheville. Complete applications from graduating high school and transfer students must be received by February 15 for full consideration. Applications will be considered only for students accepted at the university who have completed the FAFSA form and are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, nationals, or refugees. The ACES Scholarship Selection Committee will review and rank the applications based on the review criteria listed below. Scholarships will be awarded to the highest-ranked applicants with demonstrated financial need, as determined by the Office of Financial Aid.

The number of scholarships awarded will correspond with the number of ACES scholars designated for each group of peers called a Lateral Learning Community (LLC), allowing for the replacement of previous ACES scholars who no longer meet the criteria to maintain scholarship funding. Scholarship amounts will be based on each student's individual financial need and the total number of scholarship dollars available to the LLC.

Scholarship recipients will be notified with a congratulatory letter by the last week of April. The letter for high school applicants will include information about the LLC, freshman year student support, and summer freshman orientation. The letter for transfer student applicants will include information about the LLC, relevant transfer student support programs, and summer transfer orientation.

Review Criteria

The ACES Scholarship Selection Committee will evaluate applications based on the following listed categories. Reviewers will be instructed to consider special circumstances to establish a LLC of high-quality, motivated and promising students that maintains or increases the Atmospheric and Computer Sciences Departments' high level of female and underrepresented minority students:

  • High school academic performance, including high school GPA, high school biology, chemistry, physics, and math grades, class rank, and SAT score
  • College or university academic performance (if applicable), including GPA and grades in science and math courses
  • Letter of recommendation, which will be evaluated for aptitude, seriousness as a student, and motivation for a future in a STEM discipline
  • Essay answering the question "Why study atmospheric or computer sciences?" The essay will be evaluated for organization, motivation for STEM education, desire to major in atmospheric or computer science, and communication skills.

At UNC Asheville, about 70% of the student body demonstrates financial need; the average amount of this need after federal and state grants (e.g., Pell grants and NC state grants) is $7,033. We have set the average scholarship amount to $6,000 per student per academic year, which is over 85% of the average financial need. Since 56.2% of full-time students at UNC Asheville hold jobs, we expect that the financial support will enable ACES scholars to avoid having to work so that they can spend more time focused on their education.

Criteria to Maintain Scholarship Funding

Scholarship funding will continue for four full academic years for high school applicants (or two academic years for transfer applicants), provided that each recipient meets all of the following requirements:

  • Advancement in the curriculum of the atmospheric sciences or computer science major (as determined by a student's academic advisor)
  • Completion of at least 29 credit hours of coursework in the freshman year and at least 30 credit hours of coursework in each subsequent academic year
  • Maintenance of a minimum GPA of 2.5 in STEM courses at the end of the freshman year, increasing to a minimum GPA of 2.7 in STEM courses in the sophomore through senior years
  • Minimum overall GPA of 2.5 in all UNC Asheville courses
  • Continuation of eligibility for financial assistance

The minimum GPA of 2.5 in the freshman year is set to reflect the rigorous standards in UNC Asheville's foundational science and mathematics courses. There is no grade inflation in these courses. For example, over the last 5 years the average GPA in Physics I (PHYS 221) is 2.60. UNC Asheville grades on a +/- system. A grade of B- in Physics I equates to a GPA of 2.67, but a student who earns such a grade could still demonstrate a potential for success in future atmopsheric science or computer science courses and the science major. The minimum GPA is set higher beyond the freshman year to match the higher standards for ACES scholars.