What is Bright Futures? How do you become eligible for the scholarship? If you are planning on or even considering attending college in Florida, you need to know this information and the earlier, the better. While there are 4 types of scholarships which are part of Florida Bright Futures Program, this information is focused on the 2 primary scholarships for students who plan on pursuing an undergraduate degree or certification at a college or university in Florida – the Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) and the Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS).
To be eligible for Bright Futures, students must:
Be a Florida resident and US citizen or eligible non citizen
Graduate from a Florida public high school or a registered Department of Education Private institution, earn a GED or complete an eligible Home Education program
Meet high school college prep coursework requirements
Be accepted to and enrolled at a Public or eligible private post-secondary institution in Florida
Not have been convicted of or plead no contest to felony charges
Meet official standardized test score, service hour and GPA requirements
Have official transcripts sent from high school
Complete the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA)
The FAS scholarship is the highest level available to students and covers 100% of tuition and applicable fees at Florida public institutions. It also covers an additional $300 in educational expenses for the Fall and Spring semesters. If a student chooses to attend an eligible private institution, they are given a comparable amount which could add up to approx. $6000. To be awarded the FAS, students must obtain a weighted GPA of at least 3.50 and an SAT score of 1290 or ACT score of 29. They must also complete 100 hours of service.
The FMS scholarship is the second tier and covers 75% of tuition and applicable fees. It also covers a comparable amount at eligible private institutions. To obtain the FMS, students must obtain a weighted GPA of at least a 3.00 and an SAT score of 1170 or ACT score of 26. They must also complete 75 hours of service.
To apply for Bright Futures, students must first complete the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA). This application typically opens on October 1 and must be completed by August 31 post graduation. After applying for the FFAA, the student will gain access to complete the Bright Futures application.
Students can send their test scores by simply requesting an official test score to be sent to any of the 12 Florida sate universities, state colleges or public high schools. Students have until August 31 post graduation to meet the testing requirements, which means completing testing by June 30. Scores can be superscored and students can take it as many times as needed to get the minimum required scores. Students can bypass the test score requirements if they complete an AICE or IB Diploma.
Service hours must be completed by high school graduation. To verify what activities meet the service hour requirements, students should speak to their high school counselors. Whatever the activity may be, the student must get the signed verification from the appropriate supervisor. Activities which typically count towards the hours are volunteering for nonprofits, working on local political campaigns, or interning at local businesses. To be counted towards Bright Futures, students can not be remunerated or receive academic credit for any of the service.
Students can complete their application any time after December, when they are able to officially enroll at one of the eligible post-secondary institutions. The funds will be distributed directly to the college. Students should ensure they keep their account updated with the institution they are attending as well as their service hours. They should also make sure their counselor sends their official transcripts.
Both levels of Bright Futures can be used for summer semester and depending on the college's programs, may be able to be used for study abroad. A common misconception is that the Bright Futures is a 'full ride'. However, it covers solely the tuition and some fees. unless a family has a 529. Families should not neglect to seek additional funding such as scholarships and other institutional and federal financial aid. Parents should follow all deadlines to file the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE where required in order to be eligible for other aid.
When families have a 529 Plan, the schools apply those funds first and then the Bright Futures. In this case, Bright Futures funds can be used for expenses other than standard tuition and fees. If there are funds left over, the school will usually give them back to the student to use for additional expenses.
Consider the requirements early as you go through high school and begin to complete the service hours, meet college prep course requirements, and prepare for standardized tests to ensure you do not miss out on these extra funds!