Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)

Purpose:  GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is designed to assist low income students succeed in secondary school so that they will graduate from high school and pursue higher education.    In 2011, Governor Scott Walker designated the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Wisconsin Educational Opportunity Program (WEOP) as the sole state agency to administer the GEAR UP grant. The GEAR UP grant is funded through the United States Department of Education.

Objectives:  The objectives of the program are listed below:

  • 100 percent of the students will be encouraged to enroll in rigorous academic courses for high school preparation, graduation, and college admission.
  • 90 percent of the priority students will graduate from high school each year and 80 percent will continue their education beyond high school.
  • 50 percent of the GEAR UP priority students and parents will increase their knowledge of college and career readiness.
  • 75 percent of the school district staff who participate in professional development opportunities will increase their knowledge of college and career readiness.
  • Other items that are measured are the number of seniors who complete the FAFSA and the number who have completed a rigorous course of study in high school.


  1. 2,700 priority middle and high school students from eight target school districts must be recruited and enrolled.
  2. A priority student is a student that is receiving free or reduced price meals at time of enrollment in the program and is from a target school.
  3. Students between the grades 6-10 can be enrolled in the program.
  4. Students must receive free or reduced price meals at time of enrollment.
  5. Student must be United State citizens or nationals, permanent residents of the United States or students who can provide documentation from US Immigration of their intent to become a permanent resident.
  6. Students must attend a GEAR UP target school.
  7. Students are expected to participate and remain in the program until high school graduation.
  8. Outreach services to 45,000 students, parents, and school district staff to promote college accessibility, attainability, and affordability is also provided.
  9. 400 outreach 11th and 12th grade students can be nominated for the GEAR UP outreach scholarship.These students may be from a GEAR UP target or non-target school.The students must be receiving free or reduced price meals at the time they are completing the WEOP 1000 application form and receive a GEAR UP service before they graduate from high school.
  10. The target GEAR UP schools include:



Ashland School District

Ashland Middle and High Schools

DC Everest School District

DC Everest Middle, Junior and Senior High Schools

Eau Claire School District

Delong Middle School, Memorial High School, North High School, and South Middle School

Green Bay School District

East High School, Edison Middle School, Preble High School,  Southwest High School, Washington Middle School, West High School

Madison School District

Black Hawk Middle School, East High School, O’Keefe, Middle School, and Sherman Middle School

Milwaukee Public Schools


Barack Obama School of Career and Technology Education, Bayview High School, Bradley Tech High School, Carmen High School, Cass Street Elementary, Congress Elementary, Hamilton High School,  James Madison Academic Campus, Pulaski High School, Riverside High School, Ronald Reagan High School, Rufus King High School, South Division High School, Thurston Woods Middle School, Vieau Elementary, Westside Academy

Racine School District 

Gilmore Middle School, Horlick High School, Jerstad Middle School, McKinley Middle School, and Park High School,

Wausau School District

East High School, Horace Mann Middle School, John Muir Middle School, and West High School

Types of Services:

  • One-on-one academic, career or personal advising.
  • Instruction on topics that include study skills, importance of rigorous classes, picking the right courses to be successful in high school, college vocabulary, time management, financial literacy, types of degrees and colleges, scholarship searches, and/or writing a college essay.
  • Transition strategies from 8th grade to high school as well as from 12th grade to college.
  • College visits.
  • Cultural events.
  • ACT preparation.
  • College admission and financial aid application assistance.
  • Fee waivers for college admission applications and ACT registration.
  • Monitoring of grades, attendance, and homework completion.
  • Information and scholarships to attend a DPI precollege programs.
  • Consideration for the GEAR UP scholarship.


Funding:  Funding is secured through the Department of Education and is a six-year renewable grant in the amount of $5,000,000.  The grant must be matched dollar for dollar.  One half of the grant $2,500,000 must be used for the GEAR UP Scholarship.


Purpose:  The GEAR Scholarship is to assist low–income students meet their unmet financial need or replace student loan or work study awarded to first-time college students attending a Wisconsin public or private technical college, college, or university.  Each year 400 outreach students as well as all enrolled GEAR UP target school seniors who have completed the necessary paper work can be awarded the scholarship based on various criteria.

Eligibility: There are two types of GEAR UP scholarships.  The outreach GEAR UP scholarship and the regular GEAR UP scholarship.

In order to be considered for either the outreach or regular GEAR UP, a student must

  • Complete the PI WEOP 1000 form.
  • Have completed high school.
  • Receive a service prior to high school graduation.
  • Receive the 21st Century Certificate.
  • Be a first-time college student.
  • Be enrolled at a public, private, or technical college/university in Wisconsin.
  • Provide a copy of the student’s college financial aid award notification to the WEOP office.
  • Have unmet need or have loan and/or work study to be reduced or replaced.
  • Be verified of enrollment in college.

A regular GEAR UP student must:

  • Be under 22 years of age at the time of the first scholarship.
  • Be enrolled in the GEAR UP program at their target school before the end of the tenth grade and after 9/11/2011.

An outreach GEAR UP student must:

  • Be receiving free or reduced price meals at time of submission of the WEOP 1000 form.
  • Must be a junior or senior in high school at time of application.
  • Must meet one TIP criteria from Group A and one criteria from Group B.

Other Scholarship Requirements:

  • The minimum scholarship amount will be the minimum Pell Grant and will not exceed the cost of attendance.
  • The GEAR UP Scholarship will be prorated if the student is not attending full time.
  • The scholarship will be renewed for up to eight consecutive semesters of enrollment at a qualified institution of higher education.

Type of Services:

  • Attend some type of presentation or workshop conducted by WEOP staff on college or career readiness topics.
  • Attend Wisconsin Students Go 2 College Application Week.
  • Attend College Goal Wisconsin.
  • Participate in one-on-one academic, career, or personal advising.
  • Receive assistance with the completion of the college application process.

Student Application and documents required:

  1. WEOP 1000(WEOP Student Application Form).
  2. PI WEOP 1000 Application Instructions (WEOP Student Application Instructions.)
  3. PI WEOP 1000 Form must be submitted before high school graduation.
  4. A submittedFAFSA is required (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
  5. A copy of the student’s college financial aid award notification is required.

Transfer Student Application Form:

Funding:  There is $2,500,000 set aside for the scholarship annually for continuing and new students. 

DPI-WEOP Student Application:

WEOP has seven statewide offices: Ashland, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Racine and Wausau.