Initial Eligibility Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between a Regents' Scholar Diploma and the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship?

The Regents' Scholar Diploma has been awarded for many years by the state of South Dakota based on criteria established by the South Dakota Board of Regents. It is a commemorative certificate issued by the Board of Regents that says the student completed the Regents' Scholar curriculum. A high school administrator submits a list of students who qualify and the Board of Regents issues the certificates, which are often handed out at high school graduation ceremonies or awards night. The South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship is a program that awards a $7,500 scholarship over four years to qualifying high school graduates, who complete the high school curriculum requirements established for the Opportunity Scholarship program and maintain certain academic standards. Eligibility is based on an application submitted to the South Dakota postsecondary institution by the student, along with an official high school transcript and verification of a minimum ACT score of 24 or SAT score where the sum of the verbal and mathematics scores is at least 1090 (testing before January 2016) or 1180 (testing after March 2016)


Can I sit out a year or two after high school graduation this spring and still qualify for a scholarship?

Yes, under certain circumstances. You must enter into the scholarship program within five years of high school graduation, or within one year of release from active military service, if that release is within five years of the date of your high school graduation.


Can I go to school in another state for a while and then come back to South Dakota and still qualify for an Opportunity Scholarship?

Yes, under some circumstances. Beginning on July 1, 2006, the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship program extended scholarship eligibility to certain South Dakota students who attend college or a technical school out of state and then return to South Dakota to attend school. Such students may be eligible for a partial scholarship award. This applies only to students who first attend full time at regionally accredited institution out of state and then return to South Dakota to attend school within two years after their high school graduation date (or two years following release from active military service). Such students must meet initial and continuing eligibility provisions (GPA and credit-hour load requirements) while they were enrolled out of state. If a student returns to South Dakota and applies for the Opportunity Scholarship, a partial award is made. Students forfeit any scholarship amount for the time spent out of state. In their fourth and final year of eligibility, the scholarship payment is also reduced by one-half (a $1,300 award will be made, instead of a $2,600).


What kind of score do I need to get on my college entrance exams (ACT or SAT) to qualify for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship?

The Composite or Super Score on the ACT must be at least 24, or SAT score where the sum of the verbal and mathematics scores is at least 1090 (testing before January 2016) or 1180 (testing after March 2016). The ACT or SAT test also must be taken while in high school or the summer following graduation from high school and before postsecondary enrollment.  Super Scores must be ACT repoerted and not those that are manually calculated by the Student, Parent, High School or Campus. 


Can I use an unofficial, or "residual," ACT exam score to qualify for the scholarship?

No, the ACT score must be an official score reported on an official test report issued from ACT. For limited purposes, some colleges and universities do allow students to take the ACT exam on campus under non-standardized testing conditions. Those are "residual" test scores, and are not considered official scores by the ACT. The Board of Regents also does not accept residual scores for purposes of establishing eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship.


What is the scholarship application deadline?

It is recommended that the initial scholarship application and transcript be submitted by June 1, so that the financial aid office at the higher education institution can begin to work with eligible students to package a scholarship award. However, the final application deadline is September 1.


If I meet eligibility requirements, will I have to "compete" with other eligible students to receive this scholarship? Is it first-come, first serve?

All students who meet eligibility requirements and complete the necessary application procedures can expect to receive a scholarship award. If the number of eligible recipients exceeds the amount of money appropriated for the scholarship by the South Dakota Legislature, the scholarship may be prorated and distributed to each recipient proportionately.


Who will determine that I have taken the right courses to qualify for the scholarship?

An authorized high school representative must sign off on the scholarship application form, certifying that the student completed all necessary courses. It is important that the student and the high school review the applicant’s academic record carefully and confirm scholarship eligibility, before an application is submitted.


The Opportunity Scholarship criteria refer to "no final grade below a C" and an "average grade of B"?  What is the difference between "final grade" and "average grade"?

"Final grade" refers to any grade shown on a student’s transcript for any course needed to meet the Opporunity Scholarship curriculum requirements. The "average grade of B" refers to a student’s cumulative high school grade point average; in other words, a student’s cumulative high school GPA must be 3.0 on a 4.0 scale to qualify for the scholarship.


My school gives plus and minus grades. If a "C-" is awarded as a final grade in a course required to meet the Opportunity Scholarship curriculum requirements, do I qualify for the scholarship?

“No final grade below a C" equals a 2.0 grade point on a 4.0 scale. A final grade of C- on the transcript clearly equals something less than a C, and so would disqualify the student for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship. The following chart shows how letter grades convert to numeric grade points for South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship eligibility:

Letter Grade to Grade Point:

A+ and A
A -
B -
C -
D -


How is a student's eligibility and GPA affected if he/she takes a course and receives a "C-" or lower, then retakes the course to get a "C" or higher?

If a student receives a "C-" or lower in one of the courses required for the Opportunity Scholarship, they are allowed to retake the course in an attempt to achieve the "C" or higher required in the administrative rules that govern the scholarship program. When personnel from one of the 16 participating institutions reviews this student's transcript, they will seek to establish whether the student has a "C" or higher in the required number of courses. For example, if a student has five units of Mathematics, and one of those units received a "C-" or lower, the student will have met the mathematics requirement as long as 4 of those units are at a "C" or higher. The same standard applies when a student repeats a course. As long as 4 units of mathematics are transcripted at a "C" or higher, the mathematics requirement would be met. However, the administrative rules do specify that campus personnel must include all courses on the student's high school transcript when calculating his/her unweighted cumulative grade point average.


Is a student disqualified if their grades are weighted or only if the weighted grades boost the GPA to a 3.0 or make a "C-" a "C"?

Each institution is required to recalculate a student's unweighted cumulative grade point average when he/she has attended a South Dakota high school with a weighted grade point system. There may be instances where a student's weighted GPA places them at or above the 3.0 requirement, but fail to meet this criteria once campus personnel perform the necessary recalculation. In those situations, the student would be permanently ineligible for the Opportunity Scholarship program. To perform this calculation, institutions evaluate each grade on the student transcript, whereby no final grade may fall below a "C" (2.0 grade point) on a 4.0 scale when producing the final unweighted GPA. A final grade of "C-" on the transcript clearly equals something less than a "C", and so would disqualify the student for the scholarship program.       

Does anything besides a course taken in high school satisfy the Opportunity Scholarship curriculum?

Yes, in limited circumstances. The approved curriculum generally refers to high school courses taken in grades 9-12. However, accelerated or honors mathematic courses in the 8th grade, i.e. 8th algebra, may be accepted. If such 8th grade courses are completed, the high school must include those courses on the student’s high school transcript. It is important to remember that eligibility for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship is based on review of the official high school transcript.


What South Dakota postsecondary institutions qualify to accept a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship?

The scholarship may be used at any university, college, or technical school in South Dakota that is accredited by the North Central Association (NCA). Most institutions in South Dakota are regionally accredited by NCA. The school also must provide instruction from a campus located in South Dakota.


If I choose to complete two units of modern or classical language to meet the curriculum requirements of the scholarship, does that have to be two years of the same language or can I take Spanish I and French I, for example?

The intent has always been for a student to take two years of instruction in the same language. The written policy has been clarified to make it very clear that both the Regents' Scholar and Opportunity Scholarship curriculum intends a student to take two years of courses in the same language; for example, Spanish I and Spanish II.


I live on the border of South Dakota and attend high school in another state? Am I eligible for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship?

Yes. The law says you must be a "resident of South Dakota" at the time you graduate from high school. So if you live in South Dakota, but attended high school out of state, you may still qualify. Similarly, a student in a military family who has maintained South Dakota residency but the student attends high school out of state will qualify under that definition.


Can I extend my scholarship to cover more than four years of study?

No. The scholarship covers up to four academic years (that is, eight consecutive fall and spring terms).


What is the effect on initial scholarship eligibility if a student attends summer school out of state between high school graduation and initial enrollment in a participating South Dakota institution?

If a student attends summer school out of state between high school graduation and initial enrollment in a South Dakota institution, the following conditions must be met in order to maintain initial eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship:

  • The student’s status at the out-of-state school is nondegree seeking.
  • The student has not received federal financial aid from the out-of-state institution.




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Kerri Richards

Scholarship and Financial Aid Policy Analyst





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