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Florida Bright Futures Requirements: SAT, ACT, GPA, and More

Posted by Francesca Fulciniti | Sep 27, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Financial Aid

 

 

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The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship programs are awesome education funding options for Florida state residents - if you can get through the application process, that is. The scholarships offered are particularly nitpicky and tedious about their eligibility requirements: the official handbook outlining these criteria is its own 14-page book chapter. Not to worry! I’ve outlined all the eligibility criteria (general and specific, for each scholarship, with every single exception or special circumstance) in a way that’s a bit easier to get through. 

I’ve also included information about when to expect notification about your eligibility. Once you’re considered eligible, you’re one (big) step closer to winning a Bright Futures Scholarship. Once you’ve processed all this information, I’ll get to the good stuff - how to increase your chances of winning your own Bright Futures award. 

 

General Bright Futures Requirements

 There are a few different Bright Futures awards, but these blanket requirements apply to all of them (unless otherwise mentioned later on in the post). In order to qualify for one of these awards, you must:

  • Be a Florida state resident and US citizen or eligible noncitizen (noncitizen eligibility is determined by your college)
  • Earn a standard Florida high school diploma or its equivalent from a Florida public high school or a registered Florida Department of Education private school
  • Not have been convicted of (or pleaded no contest to) a felony charge
  • Be accepted by and enroll in a degree or certificate program at an eligible Florida public or independent postsecondary institution
  • Be enrolled for at least 6 (non-remedial) credit hours per term

If you meet all of the above requirements, you're on the right track to getting your own Florida Bright Futures awards. 

 

Specific Scholarship Requirements

The different Bright Futures scholarship awards have slightly different academic eligibility requirements. Use this info to determine which scholarship award might be the best match for you. 

 

Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) and Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) Requirements

There are certain minimum requirements for high school coursework, GPA, ACT/SAT scores, and service hours that must be met to qualify for either of these programs. You'll have to meet the requirements in all of these domains in order to be eligible for an award. If you've won another academic award, you may have an easier time qualifying for an FAS or FMS award- I'll talk about why and how after discussing all academic requirements. 

Coursework

We'll start off with the easiest of the eligibility criteria - I've laid out here all the high school classes you need to have taken in order to qualify for an award. The good news is that most high schools require students to take these classes anyways, so barring any special circumstances, you should meet these requirements. 

This chart outlines coursework requirements for both the FAS and FMS scholarships:

 

High School Course

Credits Required

Comments

English

4

Three must include substantial writing

Mathematics

4

Must be at or above Algebra I level

Natural Science

3

Two must have substantial lab work

Social Science

3

--

World Language*

2

Must be sequential, and in the same language

 

* A note about the World Language requirements: if you haven't taken the necessary courses, you can meet this requirement by demonstrating proficiency on credit-by-exam equivalencies or other “university-approved” means. What this means is if you can test out of your language in college, you’ll probably also meet this language requirement even if you didn’t take 2 sequential language courses in high school.

GPA, ACT/SAT, and Service Hours 

You'll need to demonstrate a degree of academic and community service excellence in order to qualify for either the FAS or FMS programs. You'll notice, though, that the FMS program is a bit less competitive in its minimum requirements. I've laid all of these eligibility criteria out in one chart so you can easily compare requirements for both programs:

 

SCHOLARSHIP

WEIGHTED GPA MINIMUM

ACT MINIMUM

SAT MINIMUM

SERVICE HOURS

FAS

3.50

29

1290

100 hours

FMS

3.00

26

1170

75 hours

FMS - Home schooled students without official transcripts

3.00

27

1220

75 hours

 

A few important notes: 

  • You'll only need to submit scores from one standardized test - you don't need to meet score requirements for both the SAT and the ACT
  • The SAT/ACT minimums do not include the writing section. So the SAT composite score minimums are out of 1600 and not out of 2400.
  • All service hours must be completed by your high school graduation in order to count for the award.

Other Ways to Qualify for the FAS or FMS Programs

 

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Here are some alternative options for those who like to venture off the beaten path. 

 

If you’ve received academic recognition through some other program, you may be eligible for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship programs even if you don’t meet a few requirements.

This chart outlines the eligibility requirements for scholars who have been recognized by any of the programs listed below. If a box is blank, that means that you would be exempt from that particular requirement. 

 

Program

Florida Scholarship

ACT/SAT score minimums

Service hours minimums

National Merit/National Achievement Finalists and Scholars

FAS

--

100 hours

NM/NA Finalists & Scholars

FMS

--

75 hours

National Hispanic Scholars

FAS

--

100 hours

National Hispanic Scholars

FMS

--

75 hours

AICE Diploma

FAS

--

100 hours

AICE Diploma

FMS

--

75 hours

IB Diploma

FAS

--

--

AICE Curriculum

FAS

29 or 1290

100 hours

AICE Curriculum

FMS

26 or 1170

75 hours

IB Curriculum

FAS

29 or 1290

--

IB Curriculum

FMS

26 or 1170

--

 

If you have an IB diploma, you're in luck - that diploma is the only way to qualify for the FAS program without an ACT/SAT minimum or service hour minimum. 

 

Gold Seal Vocational Scholars (GSV) Requirements

The GSV program is a bit less competitive in terms of its academic eligibility requirements than the FAS or FMS programs. Although this makes it a great fit for some students, keep in mind that the GSV award can only be used to fund a career education or certificate program - no 4 year college degrees. 

In order to qualify for the GSV program, you must meet all of the following criteria

  • Must graduate from high school with a standard diploma
  • Must have a minimum unweighted 3.0 GPA in non-elective high school courses
  • Must complete 30 service hours by high school graduation
  • Must take at least 3 full credits in a single career and technical education program
  • Must achieve a minimum 3.5 unweighted GPA in your career education classes

There are also some minimum test score requirements for GSV applicants; if you’ve taken both the SAT and the ACT, you unfortunately can’t mix and match section subscores to meet minimums. All minimums must be met for a single test (but ultimately, you only have to take one!)

This chart outlines GSV test score minimums: 

 

Exam

Subsection

Score minimum

ACT

English

17

 

Reading

19

 

Math

19

SAT

Critical Reading

440

 

Math

440

P.E.R.T

Reading

106

 

Writing

103

 

Math

114

 

 

An Update on SAT Score Requirements for FAS, FMS, and GSV Awards

As you may already know, the SAT test underwent some significant changes in its structure and scoring system in January of 2016. So how do these changes affect the strict eligibility requirements for these scholarships? 

Fortunately, it doesn't look like any real changes to SAT requirements are in the works: 

  • To qualify for these awards, you have to achieve certain scores out of a total of 1600 points - writing section not included. The updated SAT is scored out of 1600, with a separate (optional) writing section. Because the Bright Futures awards don't take the writing section into account, you shouldn't expect any changes to required SAT scores - you'll still be expected to achieve certain scores out of 1600 total points, or 800 points per section. 
  • Instead of meeting score requirements for the old Critical Reading and Math sections (like in the eligibility criteria outlined above), you'll have to meet the same score requirements for the updated SAT sections: Writing & Language and Math. Check out our complete guide to the updated SAT for everything you need to know about these sections.         

For your reference, here are the likely SAT minimum scores for each of the Bright Futures awards: 

  • FAS: 1290 combined (Writing & Language + Math)
  • FMS: 1170 combined (Writing & Language + Math)
  • GSV: 440 in Writing & Language, 440 in Math

 

Special Circumstances: What If You Don't Think You Qualify? 

 

body_leftout.jpgFeeling left out of all the scholarship fun? You could still be eligible!

 

As you can see, the eligibility requirements for the Florida Bright Futures awards are quite specific. Perhaps fortunately for you, there are just as many exceptions to these rules as there are actual rules. If you were homeschooled, have a GED, or live out of state, you still might qualify for the award even given the stringent criteria described above. 

 

Homeschooled Students

If you were homeschooled and don't have a Florida state standard diploma, you still may qualify for a Bright Futures award if: 

  • You meet all of the general requirements described at the beginning of this post
  • You were registered in the district where you live for grades 11-12

To get more information about qualifying for a Bright Futures award as a homeschooled student, check out this guide

 

GED Students

In order to qualify for a Bright Futures award as a GED student, you must meet the coursework requirements and GPA requirements outlined at the beginning of this post before taking the GED exam. The proces of applying or qualifying for an award won't be much different than that of a student with a standard high school diploma. Just keep in mind that your eligibility for a scholarship will be determined in the academic year in which your GED is earned. 

 

Out-of-State Students

Usually, only Florida residents can qualify for the Florida Bright Futures scholarships (not a huge surprise there). If you earned a high school diploma from a non-Florida school while living with a parent or guardian who was on military or public service assignment outside of Florida, you may still be eligible. Keep in mind, though, that this parent must be a Florida resident. 

To get more information about qualifying for a Bright Futures award as an out-of-state student, check out this guide

 

When Do You Learn Whether You're Deemed Eligible for a Bright Futures Scholarship? 

These eligibility qualifications above are tedious, to say the least. There are a couple of different official steps in place to determining program eligibility - these are implemented in order to make sure you’re checking off all the right boxes.

 

Early Evaluations

One option that the Bright Futures scholarship program offers is an early eligibility evaluation. If you submit transcripts and test scores to the Florida Department of Education early in your 7th semester of high school (think late winter your senior year), you’ll receive an “eligibility or ineligibility determination.” These eligibility decisions should be posted starting in March. Although an ineligible determination is not ideal, it may save you a good chunk of time - you won’t have to submit a whole application for a scholarship program that you won’t be considered for.

 

Final Evaluations

Once your final transcripts are submitted after your graduate high school, you’ll get an eligibility determination posted to your online account. The scholarship program will begin posting these determinations in July.

 

How Do You Optimize Your Eligibility Chances?  

 

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Ready to get started? 

 

Now that you know all about the Florida Bright Futures eligibility rules, you can start working on maximizing your chances of winning a scholarship. Many of the important eligibility requirements are long term considerations, in the sense that you’ll have to plan out and work for the requirements starting your freshman year of high school. Here, I'll go through all the award criteria, giving tips and strategies to meet minimum coursework, GPA, test score, and service hour minimums

 

Coursework 

Like I mentioned earlier, most high schools require students to take the courses necessary to qualify for the Bright Futures awards. If you’re worried you won’t meet the course requirements criteria, schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor ASAP to see if you can work in extra course credits before graduation. 

 

GPA

GPA requirements are easier to meet when they’ve been maintained over several years. If you’re just missing the GPA cutoff requirements, you should consider: 

  • Whether your GPA is weighted or unweighted. A weighted GPA will be higher than an unweighted one if you’ve taken any advanced or honors classes.
  • Seeing your teachers after class or after school for extra help in your weaker subject areas. 
  • Asking your teachers if there are any extra credit projects or assignments you can complete in order to bring up your grades.
  • The GPA requirement is lower for the FMS than the FAS scholarship - if you don’t meet the criteria for the FAS, you may meet them for the FMS. 

 

ACT/SAT 

Test scores might be a sticking point for many students. The ACT/SAT minimums for both the FMS and FAS scholarship are pretty high - for example, the ACT scores required are at the 93rd and 87th percentiles. Here's what you can do to increase your chances of meeting those minimum scores: 

  • Start preparing for and taking the tests early on in high school. There’s no maximum number of times you can take the test in order to qualify for the scholarship. If you’re worried about achieving these test scores, plan on starting your sophomore year if possible. 
  • Decide whether you’re better off taking the SAT or ACT. Focus on one test instead of trying to do well on both.
  • Don't have a lot of time to bring up your scores? Check out our ACT and SAT fast prep guides. 

 

Service Hours

It would not be fun to try to fit in 75-100 service hours in the few months before high school graduation (remember that your service hours all have to be completed before you get your diploma). If you start volunteering as a freshman, you’ll only have to volunteer for an hour every 2-3 weeks in order to meet these minimums; if you start as a senior, however, you’ll have to volunteer 1.5-2 hours every week. So how do you stay on track?

  • Find something that you're passionate about. Are there any interests that you want to explore, especially any related to future career paths? You could gain service hours and professional experience at the same time. 
  • Ask friends or family members if there are any service activities that they would recommend. Maybe you could volunteer together!
  • Volunteer at the same time, on the same day, every week. Having a set schedule will help you keep your commitment.
  • Don’t be afraid to switch it up. You have 75-100 required community service hours, but they don’t all have to be at the same place. if you’re losing interest, or if something just isn’t a good fit, it’s okay to try something else. Don’t just switch it up for the sake of switching, though - appearing flaky could hurt potential professional development and even your college applications. 
  • Volunteer with an established, legitimate agency. You want an organization that’s reliable enough to provide good documentation of your service hours when asked.
  • Keep your own records of service hours as a backup.

 

What's Next?

Need some more detailed information about keeping your grades up, seeking out community service experiences, or raising standardized test scores? 

You're in luck. Read about 4 strategies to raise your high school GPA and the 9 best places to do community service. Check out our comprehensive SAT and ACT prep guides. 

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Francesca Fulciniti
About the Author

Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She's worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.



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