What is a Governor's School?

Academic Year Governor's Schools are joint schools established to serve gifted, bright, high-achieving students.


Where is the Southwest Virginia Governor's School?

SWVGS is located at 100 Northwood Drive, Pulaski, VA 24301.


Who participates in SWVGS?

Currently, nine school divisions from across Southwest Virginia participate in the Southwest Virginia Governor's School. Students from the Counties of Carroll, Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski, Smyth, and Wythe, as well as the cities of Galax and Radford attend SWVGS.


What is the focus at SWVGS?

The Southwest Virginia Governor's School was established to provide an accelerated and enriched science and mathematics learning environment of exceptional quality.


What is the curriculum like?

Students attend SWVGS for three hours each weekday. The coursework is based on a compacted curriculum model where all classes are dual-enrolled through either New River Community College or Radford University. A description of the core curriculum is available here and a complete list of courses may be found here.


What classes are available at SWVGS?

Classes at the Governor's School are divided into four main areas: Science, Mathematics, Career Development, and Computer Science. Some classes are required as part of the core curriculum while others are offered as electives. Please visit the course listings for more details.


How are the classes different?

The classes at SWVGS are fast paced and truly college level. Classmates are similar in terms of ability, motivation, interests, and goals. Teachers factor student readiness, interests, and learning profiles into lessons. Some courses allow for student choice in types of assignments and assessments.


Do students do lab work?

Students at the Governor's School typically have lab sessions every week. Juniors take one lab-based class per semester and seniors may take two lab-based courses. Students use advanced equipment in the anatomy, biology, chemistry, environmental science, forensic science, and physics labs. Students also utilize sophisticated instruments in their independent research projects.


If I attend SWVGS, who will be in my classes?

Students at SWVGS come from sixteen different high schools from eight school divisions. Governor's School students have the unique experience of working as lab mates with students from other divisions in the morning and then competing against the same people in sports or academic competitions in the evening. An invaluable part of the SWVGS experience is the opportunity to meet students with similar interests, skills, abilities, and goals. At the Governor's School, students find themselves classrooms filled with peers who want to learn; they are surrounded by others who believe that a desire to achieve is cool. Students create new, long-lasting friendships at SWVGS. Many find their future college roommate or spouse while at the Governor's School.


How does SWVGS meet the needs of gifted students?

Students are challenged through dual-enrolled college classes. Students learn advanced material at a fast pace. Research projects allow students to use and develop their individual talents while pursuing areas of specific interest. Students are also asked to approach questions in new ways, to synthesize information, and critically analyze data.


What is the schedule like at SWVGS?

Students attend the Governor's School for half a day to take courses in science, mathematics, and research. We receive students on staggered, overlapping schedules from 7:00-9:57 and 8:00-10:57. Usually, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are reserved for class lecture periods. Students attend three 57 minute classes on those days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for lab sessions, science fair courses, study skills or career exploration courses, and work time. Lab sections are two hours long once per week.

Science fair courses are one hour once a week, the study skills course is one hour once a week in the fall semester, the career exploration course is one hour once a week in the spring semester. Juniors have two hours of recitation time on either Tuesday or Thursday each week. They are permitted to use that time to complete assignments, work with other students, and to get help as necessary from instructors. Seniors have more varied schedules. Some seniors have only one hour of work time per week while others have three hours per week, depending on the number of lab-based courses they are taking.


If I attend, will Governor's School be hard?

The coursework and expectations at the Governor's School will likely be different from your previous experiences. Students in classes at SWVGS are relatively homogeneous in terms of skills, ability, motivation, and interests so the courses are fast-paced. The classes are truly college level. Content is covered in depth and expectations are rigorous.

Many gifted students meet their first academic challenges at SWVGS. Initially, many students feel somewhat overwhelmed at the Governor's school. Many have never had an academic challenge and needing to work hard to do well in classes is a bit of a shock. The workload may take getting used to, but students are up for the challenge and gain an invaluable experience in terms of preparing for college and later life.

Some students have their confidence shaken early in their first year at Governor's School year. Initially, this can cause anxiety, but with each success at SWVGS their confidence is strengthened all the more. Students are often elated to discover that they not only belong at the Governor's school, but that they excel at high level work. Students are usually thrilled to be in classrooms filled with motivated students with similar interests and goals. Students develop a new sense of self-worth as they master difficult concepts and discover their exceptional abilities as a student.


Can I attend the Governor's School and still be in the band or play sports?

Yes, Governor's School students remain very involved with extracurricular activities at their home high schools. Many SWVGS students are drum majors. Results of a survey showed that more than 60% of SWVGS students play at least one sport and 40% play two or more sports.


If I attend SWVGS, will I still keep my current friends?

Yes, SWVGS students maintain previous friendships while also building new relationships with peers they meet in Governor's School classes. SWVGS students participate in activities that are part of the typical home high school experience such as homecoming week, clubs, sports, band, academic competitions, and prom. Students also remain involved with their families and communities.


Why would I want to attend SWVGS?

At SWVGS, you will be in class with other students who like learning. You will have freedom and be challenged. You will have the experience and pleasure of earning a grade. You will earn nearly two years of college credit at no cost to you or your family.

If you are a curious person who often wonders why things happen, if you are fascinated by the intricacy of living things, if you enjoy making things and figuring out how they work, if puzzles and math challenges are fun for you, and if you enjoy academic competition, then the Governor's school may be a great fit for you.

If you are willing to work hard in school, if you appreciate extra attention from teachers, if you are willing to do more than necessary at times to guarantee true understanding, and if you believe you will benefit from working in classrooms filled with students who share your interests and commitment, then the Governor's school will be an appropriate choice for you.


How can SWVGS help me get into my college of choice?

Students at SWVGS have an opportunity to create a record that demonstrates their ability to be successful in rigorous classes. Students complete internships and independent research projects which offer individualized examples of accomplishments that can be added to college applications. Students develop close, working relationships with teachers, project sponsors and mentors who can then write meaningful, detailed, personalized recommendation letters.


How can I learn more about SWVGS?

  • Prospective students are invited in the spring semester for scheduled visits to SWVGS; they experience an afternoon of laboratory activities and demonstrations. During these visits they tour the Governor's School and meet SWVGS teachers.
  • Read the information provided on our website. Download or request copies of our informational brochures.
  • Call or email with questions.

  • How do I apply to SWVGS?

    1. Work with your home high school counselor or gifted resource teacher.
    2. Complete the ENTIRE SWVGS Application Packet.
    3. Wait for your school division to make student selections. Understand that the administration at SWVGS does NOT make student selection decisions.
    4. Complete placement testing as necessary.