The Florida Bright Futures scholarship programs are great resources for Florida students who plan on staying in-state for college. To date, the Bright Futures program has helped 725,000 Florida students go to college!
As with any scholarship program, though, there's a lot of information to process about the awards. Just sifting through all the eligibility requirements and award limitations can be overwhelming, never mind figuring out how to actually submit an application.
In this guide, we've compiled all the information you need about the Bright Futures scholarships. We'll talk about the different award programs, their eligibility requirements, the application process, and strategies to help you win your own.
Changes to the 2021 Bright Futures Scholarship Due to COVID-19
Because COVID-19 disrupted many Florida students' senior years, the Department of Education has made a few adjustments to some of the awards requirements and application submission deadlines. Specifically, there have been changes to the submission of volunteer hours and ACT/SAT test scores for 2021.
The coronavirus affected many students' volunteer opportunities, which means they may not have been able to meet the Bright Futures' volunteer hour requirements. To adjust for this, the Florida Department of Education is accepting documentation from guidance counselors (or other board-approved administrators) that shows students intended to complete their volunteer hour requirements before graduation.
There's no clear information about what that documentation looks like, how administrators are supposed to submit that information, or when the submission deadline is for these hours. So be sure to contact your guidance counselor as soon as possible so that they can send the documentation.
Test Score Submissions
Because many of the SAT, ACT, and PERT testing dates were cancelled or changed due to the pandemic, the Department of Education is extending the deadline for students to take their exam and submit their test scores. The new standardized test submission deadline is December 1st, 2021.
Right now, there's no indication that the testing deadline will be extended further, or that there will be exceptions made for students who aren't able to take and submit the SAT, ACT, or PERT by December 1st, 2021.
Also, these changes only affect students who graduated high school in 2021. No announcements have been made for the Class of 2022 yet.
For the most up-to-date information about the Bright Futures scholarship and how it's been affected by the coronavirus, check out the scholarship's website. You can also read the emergency order that lays out many of the changes here.
What Is the Bright Futures Scholarship Program?
The Bright Futures program offers merit-based scholarships to Florida residents who stay in Florida for college or vocational school (unfortunately, you won't be eligible for an award if you attend college out of state).
Any student who meets all of the eligibility requirements for Bright Futures will receive funds to attend any public or private college in Florida. Financial need is not considered in awarding Bright Futures scholarships (although if you get a Bright Futures scholarship, that will be considered if you apply for a federal loan in addition to the scholarship).
There are four different scholarship programs, all with different eligibility requirements and award amounts. All of these scholarships are renewable—as long as you continue to meet eligibility requirements, you can get these awards up to five years after the date of your graduation:
- Florida Academic Scholars (FAS): This is the most competitive scholarship and most generous scholarship. It's geared towards "A students." FAS winners can receive funding for the entire duration of their course of study.
- Florida Merit Scholars (FMS): This scholarship is less competitive than the FAS, but it still has relatively high minimum test score and GPA requirements. It's geared towards "B students." FMS winners can receive funding for the entire duration of their course of study.
- Gold Seal Vocational Scholars (GSV): This scholarship helps students pursue post-high school vocational and certificate degrees. It's one of the least competitive awards and offers the least funding. GSV winners can receive scholarship funding for up to 72 credit hours of a technical degree program or career certificate program OR up to 60 credit hours of an applied technology degree program.
- Gold Seal CAPE Scholars Program (GSC): This scholarship is for students who are finishing an associates degree in science or applied science through a CAPE program and want to continue on to earn a Bachelors of Science degree or Bachelors of Applied Science degree. GSC winners receive scholarship funding for up to 60 credit hours.
As we mentioned above, scholarship funds are awarded per credit hour. Scholarship recipients receive a fixed amount based on scholarship type, school type, and credit type.
Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) who attend public schools will have 100% of their tuition and applicable fees covered. They'll also receive $300 per semester to cover additional expenses, which can include room and board, books, or lab equipment. Students who attend private schools will receive a comparable amount (which we'll note in a chart below).
Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) who attend public school will have 75% of their tuition and applicable fees covered. If you're attending a private school, you'll have a comparable amount paid for (see the chart below).
Gold Seal Vocational Scholars (GSV) have their tuition paid for on a per-credit-hour basis. That means the award pays a specific dollar amount toward your education based on what type of classes and how many hours you're taking.
For example, if you're taking 12 hours in a career certificate program, you'll be awarded $39 per credit hour. You can figure out the total award amount by multiplying the per-credit-hour award by the number of hours you're taking. So in this example, you'd be getting $468 toward your education!
These criteria also apply to Gold Seal CAPE Scholars (GSC). You can earn a GSC award if you a) complete an associates degree in science or applied science from a CAPE program and b) want to continue on to earn a Bachelors of Science or Bachelors of Applied Science degree.
Here's a complete list of award amounts GSV & GSC scholars:
|PROGRAM TYPE||CREDIT HOUR AWARD - SEMESTER||CREDIT HOUR AWARD - QUARTER||CLOCK HOUR AWARD|
|Career certificate program||$39||$26||$1.30|
|Applied technology degree program||$39||$26||$1.30|
|Technical degree education program||$48||$32||$1.60|
|Bachelors of Science/Bachelors of Applied Science (GSC recipients only)*||$48||$32||--|
*GSC recipients must earn a qualifying associates degree to receive this funding.
Private School Award Amounts
Like we mentioned above, the Bright Futures program awards a different amount of money to students who are attending a private, in-state college.
When you attend a private school, awards are calculated on a per-hour basis (just like with the GSV scholars we talked about above). You'll have to do some simple math to figure out how much your award will be worth...and how many of your overall expenses it will cover.
Private School Award for FAS Students
For FAS students, the award is calculated with this formula:
Cost Per Credit/Clock Hour x Credit/Clock Hours Enrolled + College-Related Expenses Stipend = Total Award Amount
Here's the amount you'll receive per credit hour if you attend a semester-based institution:
|INSTITUTION TYPE||COST PER CREDIT HOUR||COST PER CLOCK HOUR||COLLEGE-RELATED EXPENSES STIPEND|
The award is calculated a little differently if you attend a university that uses the quarter system. If your school operates with this kind of structure, here's the amount you'll get per hour:
|INSTITUTION TYPE||COST PER CREDIT HOUR||COST PER CLOCK HOUR||COLLEGE-RELATED EXPENSES STIPEND|
Private School Award for FMS Students
Like we talked about above, the FMS awards are slightly less than their FAS counterparts. That means you'll need a different formula to figure out how much money you'll be able to put toward your college expenses. The FMS formula looks like this:
Cost Per Credit/Clock Hour x Credit/Clock Hours Enrolled = Total Award Amount
With that in mind, here's the amount you'll receive per credit hour if you attend a semester-based institution:
|INSTITUTION TYPE||COST PER CREDIT HOUR||COST PER CLOCK HOUR|
And here's the per-hour award amounts for quarter based universities:
|INSTITUTION TYPE||COST PER CREDIT HOUR||COST PER CLOCK HOUR|
For more information on how Bright Futures applies to private universities, check out this chart.
In addition to eligibility limits (which we'll get to shortly), there are some restrictions on how and where you can use Bright Futures scholarship money.
You can only use the funds at Florida schools—for more information, you can check this full list of eligible or participating institutions. Bright Futures money can’t be used to fund remedial coursework (such as developmental math or writing courses). But, as of this year FAS and FMS award winners can use their funds for summer course work.
How Do You Know If You're Eligible?
Now that you know all about the sort of funding you can get with a Bright Futures award, you're probably interested in figuring out if you're eligible. First, you should determine if you meet the general Bright Futures requirements (these apply to all four scholarships):
- You must be a Florida resident and US citizen or eligible noncitizen (this is determined by your college). As long as you are a Florida resident your parents or guardians don’t need to be.
- You must complete the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) by August 31 of the year of your high school graduation.
- You must 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.
- You can't have been convicted of (or pleaded no contest to) a felony charge.
- You must be accepted by and enroll in a degree or certificate program at an eligible Florida public or independent postsecondary institution (postsecondary institution = college, university, vocational school).
- You must enroll for at least 6 non-remedial credit hours per term.
- You have to qualify for the award as a senior in high school (or at the time you complete your GED). If you don't, you can't retroactively receive a Bright Futures Scholarship. That means that if you really want a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, you should start planning as soon as you start high school.
There are additional academic criteria for the FAS, FMS, GSC, and GSV scholarships. The FAS and FMS scholarships have pretty demanding criteria for GPA, ACT/SAT scores, and service hours, whereas the GSV and GSC programs aren't quite as demanding:
- 3.50 minimum GPA (weighted)
- 2020-2021 graduates: 29 minimum ACT score or 1330 minimum SAT score (taken by June 30 of the student's graduation year)
- 100 minimum community service hours
- 3.00 minimum GPA (weighted)
- 2020-2021 graduates: 25 minimum ACT score or 1210 minimum SAT score (taken by June 30 of the student's graduation year)
- 75 minimum community service hours
- 3.00 minimum GPA (weighted) in non-elective high school courses
- Take 3 full credits in a single Career and Technical Education program
- Achieve a minimum 3.5 GPA (unweighted) in the Career and Technical Education courses
- Achieve the minimum scores on the ACT, SAT, or Florida Postsecondary Education Test (which you can find here)
- Complete 30 service hours
- Earn a minimum of five postsecondary credit hours through CAPE industry certifications that count for college credit
- Complete 30 service hours prior to graduating from high school
There's quite a bit of fine print when it comes to eligibility requirements (including superscoring the SAT/ACT). If you want to learn more (and you should), check out our complete guide to Bright Futures requirements.
What Information Do You Need to Apply?
Thankfully, there isn't too much of this involved in submitting a Bright Futures application.
You'll be able to streamline the whole application process if you have all the necessary paperwork and materials in order before you begin. Here's everything you'll need to prepare if you want to apply for a Bright Futures scholarship:
Florida Financial Aid Application
You'll need to submit the Florida Financial Aid Application, or FFAA, no later than August 31 of the year of your high school graduation. If you don't submit the FFAA, you won't be able to get any Bright Futures funding. The application typically opens December 1.
Fortunately, Florida public high schools automatically submit official transcripts to the Florida Department of Education for Bright Futures evaluation. If your high school doesn't automatically send transcripts, you can ask them to submit yours via email to OFSA.firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAT or ACT Scores
You can take the SAT or ACT for the purpose of submitting your scores to the Bright Futures scholarship program through June 30 of your graduation year. (These criteria are different during COVID-19.) Obviously much later than you would take the tests for college applications, this long window also gives you some extra time to meet score requirements if needed.
You can submit your ACT/SAT scores for Bright Futures consideration when you register for the exams. At registration, request that your scores be sent to one of Florida's 12 state universities, public community colleges, or public high schools. The scores will automatically be forwarded to the Florida Department of Education repository.
The application process should run as smoothly (and as automatically) as a well-oiled machine.
How Do You Submit an Application?
Much of this process is automated, which means you won't have to do much extra work outside of submitting the FFAA and keeping an eye on your application to make sure everything is processed correctly. Here are all the steps you should take to make sure you submit a complete and successful Bright Futures application:
Step 1: Submit the Florida Financial Aid Application
Remember, this must be submitted by August 31 the year of your high school graduation. Your Florida Bright Futures account login information will be sent to you after you submit the FFAA.
Step 2: Take the ACT or SAT and Submit Your Test Scores
You'll have to take either the ACT or SAT for college applications anyway, so this shouldn't require extra work on your part. Send your scores to a Florida public school (as mentioned earlier in this post) to ensure that the Florida Department of Education receives them.
Step 3: Check on the Submission of Your Official Transcripts
If you attend a Florida public high school, your transcript will be automatically submitted for Bright Futures consideration. It's a good idea to check with your guidance counselor to confirm submission, especially if you don't attend a public school.
Step 4: Keep the Information in Your Bright Futures Application Account Updated
Again, you'll get account login information for your Bright Futures application account once you submit your FFAA. Once you have access to this account, you can use it to manage and monitor different parts of your application. To make sure that your scholarship application is on track, you should:
- Monitor your number of reported service hours.
- Update your postsecondary institution. Once you've enrolled at a FL college or vocational school, you should make a note of this in your account.
- Update any demographic information.
- View your eligibility determination—check your account once everything's been submitted to see if you're eligible for the scholarship.
And that's it! No letters of recommendation or essay required.
When Do You Find Out Whether You've Been Selected?
There are two different evaluation timelines: Early Evaluation and Final Evaluation.
For the Early Evaluation timeline, you can get an eligibility determination posted to your online account as early as March. Your transcripts and test scores must be submitted by January 31.
For the Final Evaluation timeline, you can get an eligibility determination posted to your online account as early as July. Your transcripts and test scores can be submitted during or after your last high school term.
You actually don't get much of a say in how this cash is used (which may be a good thing if money tends to burn a hole in your pocket).
How Can You Use Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Money?
Now that you're up to speed on the application process, you'll probably want to know what actually happens with the Bright Futures funding once you get it.
You won't receive the money directly. The financial aid office at your school will calculate your award and then disburse funds (i.e. apply the funds to your university account) after the end of the add/drop period each term. Like we mentioned before, you have to use the funds at an eligible Florida school.
Interested in studying abroad? Your school decides if any Bright Futures funding can be applied to study abroad programs. That means you'll need to check directly with your university's study abroad office for more information.
Strategies: How to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship
Winning a Bright Futures scholarship could mean that the bulk of your tuition expenses (and maybe even some room and board costs) would be covered for up to five years. If you're going to submit a Bright Futures application, you'll want to make it count.
There are four main eligibility requirements that you have control over (aside from state residency): coursework, GPA, ACT/SAT scores, and service hours. Here are some strategies to make sure you meet all of those requirements.
If you attend any high school in Florida, you're likely on track to meet all the coursework requirements. If you're in any way concerned, schedule a meeting with a guidance counselor ASAP to see if your schedule needs to be adjusted. For more information on coursework requirements, see our Bright Futures eligibility guide.
If you're concerned that your GPA isn't high enough to win the FAS scholarship—the most competitive of the awards — you can set a more reasonable goal by aiming for the FMS, GSV, or GSC scholarships. If it’s still early in your high school career however, check out our guide to raising your GPA!
Also, keep in mind that all the GPA requirements listed are weighted. If your GPA is currently unweighted, your weighted GPA may be higher if you've taken any advanced or honors classes. See your guidance counselor for more help in calculating your weighted GPA.
ACT or SAT Scores
You'll be doing yourself a favor in a couple of ways if you work on bringing up your ACT or SAT scores. Higher scores will open up more scholarship opportunities in addition to better-ranking school options.
To give yourself time to bring up your scores, start preparing for and taking the tests earlier rather than later. The end of your sophomore year through the beginning of your junior year is a good time to start working on prep.
Optimize your scores by choosing one exam to work on, rather than splitting your energies between the ACT and SAT. If you're unsure which test to take, check out our guide to figure out which test is best for you.
The best way to meet the service hours minimum is through consistency. Try to set a schedule (e.g. go at the same time every week) so that it feels like more of a serious commitment.
The more consistent you are and the earlier you start chipping away at your community service hours, the fewer hours you have to volunteer per week. If you start as a freshman, you'd need to volunteer for 1 hour every 2-3 weeks to meet your minimum. If you start as a senior; however, you'd need to volunteer 1.5-2 hours every week.
It'll be easier to stick with your volunteer commitment over the long run if you work with an established, legitimate agency that will consistently track your hours (although it's a good idea to keep your own records as backup). If you need community service ideas, read up on the nine best places to volunteer.
A Little About Reinstatement and Restoration
One of the general requirements for the Florida Bright Futures scholarship is that you must apply for it within five years of graduating high school. (Remember, this scholarship does have provisions for students who earn high school equivalency degree, so be sure to read through the handbook if you're a non-traditional student.)
If you're a student who qualified for a Bright Future Scholarship but didn't have funds disbursed to you the previous year, you can apply for reinstatement. This can only happen if you earned a Bright Futures Scholarship right after high school graduation and if you still fit within the five-year scholarship disbursement window.
To file for reinstatement, you'll need to follow the instructions for scholarship reinstatement on the Bright Futures website. You'll be required to fill out a Reinstatement/Restoration Application, which you can do by creating and logging into your OSFA account. This information will be used to determine whether you're eligible for reinstatement. Keep in mind that the deadline for submitting all of your materials is May 30 of each year, so be sure to plan accordingly!
If you enlisted in the military (or other religious or social service) immediately after high school and now want to attend college, there are a few different options for you. The Bright Futures website states that you should apply for the scholarship during your senior year, then defer the award if you choose to enlist. You can then apply for reinstatement or restoration within five years of the termination of your service, even if that exceeds the five-year graduation timeframe outlined in the scholarships's general requirements.
Restoration is an option for students who are in their first year of college and have received Bright Futures money, but have lost their eligibility for one of two reasons:
- The student didn't meet the minimum 2.75 GPA renewal requirement but did meet the hours renewal requirement.
- The student was dropped from an FAS award to an FMS award because they didn't meet the 3.0 GPA requirement for the FAS. This student can apply to have their FAS award restored.
A student can apply for restoration one time during or immediately after their first year of college. That means you only have one slim opportunity to restore your scholarship if you don't meet renewal requirements.
Put another way: it's much easier to make sure you're upholding the terms of your scholarship than it is to try and have your scholarship restored!
For more information about renewal requirements, reinstatement/restoration requirements, or the reinstatement/restoration application, check out Chapter 3 of the Bright Futures handbook.
"Help! What If...": Where to Find More Information
This article covers all of the general information you need to know about the Florida Bright Futures scholarship. (We have another article that goes over the requirements for the scholarship in more detail, so be sure to check that one out, too.)
But there's a chance you're in a unique situation. Maybe you were homeschooled for a few years, or you've volunteered in a non-traditional program not affiliated with your high school. Or maybe you attended an out-of-state school but are transferring back to a Florida university! There are a lot of situations this article doesn't cover, so it's important that you reach out to additional experts if you need some extra help.
First and foremost, you should speak to the Florida Department of Education's Office of Student Financial Assistance. This is the office that manages the Bright Futures scholarship, so they'll have the most up-to-date information and advice. You can find their contact information at the bottom of the Florida Bright Students Scholarship main page.
If you're still in high school or graduated within the last year, your individual school might be able to answer your questions. Check with your guidance counselor early and often, especially if you're curious about whether your volunteer hours will count or if you're taking the right classes to fulfill the scholarship requirements. If you're having issues with your transcript, you'll probably need to have a visit with your school's registrar instead.
If you're in college and have questions about maintaining or restoring your scholarship, swing by your school's scholarship office. They will have people on staff who are experts in the Florida Bright Futures program that can give you more clarity about your unique situation and help you plan your next steps.
Now that you know exactly what to focus on in order to get a Bright Futures scholarship, you can start working on making sure you meet all the eligibility requirements.
Want to bring up your GPA? Read about four ways to bring up your high school grades fast.
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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.