If you live in Florida and have a high schooler interested in attending a college or trade school, you have probably heard about Bright Futures. You may have questions about this scholarship program and how to apply, especially as a homeschooler.
Well, here are answers you need about Bright Futures, along with the steps to apply for this helpful scholarship program to give your homeschooler a bright future!
What is Bright Futures?
The Florida Bright Futures scholarship program provides lottery-funded scholarship money for Florida high school seniors to use at an eligible Florida college or trade school, based on academic achievement.
There are different levels of scholarship for Bright Futures.
- The Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) is the highest level and covers 100% of tuition and fees at public universities (or comparable private school amount).
- The Florida Merit Scholars (FMS) is the second level and covers 75% of tuition and fees at public colleges. FMS students enrolled in an associate degree program at an eligible institution receive 100% tuition and fees.
- There is also a Gold Seal Vocational Scholars (GSV) for students enrolled in a career education or certificate program, as well as a Gold Seal CAPE Scholars (GSC) for students finishing an associates degree in science or applied science.
Study abroad may be counted if it is approved by the institution and part of the student’s program of study.
Who is eligible for Bright Futures?
The Bright Futures scholarship is available for any high school Florida senior who decides to attend a college or trade school in Florida. It is not based on financial need, but the Bright Futures scholarship funds will be considered on any applications for additional federal loans.
Students must earn a standard Florida high school diploma from a public or registered private school, complete a home education program, earn a GED, or graduate from a non-Florida high school (if living with a parent in the military or on public service assignment) to be eligible for Bright Futures.
Students graduating from a public or private school must submit an official high school transcript with the required courses, achieve the required GPA, achieve the required SAT or ACT score, and complete the required community service hours.
What are the Bright Futures requirements for homeschoolers?
Homeschoolers have two options to be eligible for Bright Futures.
- They can be registered as homeschoolers through their districted county for both 11th and 12th grade.
- Or they can be enrolled in a private school registered with FDOE School Choice.
Homeschoolers registered through the county do NOT need to submit an “official” transcript. They just need to fill out the FFAA and submit the qualifying SAT or ACT scores and community service hours. They also need to have their community service hours verified by the county in which they are registered.
Homeschoolers enrolled in a private school should follow the guidelines provided by their school.
What are the SAT / ACT scores and community service hours for Bright Futures?
The SAT or ACT scores and the community service hours requirements vary depending on the level of scholarship for Bright Futures.
- The Florida Academic Scholars (FAS), which is the highest level, has the following requirements:
- SAT score of 1330 or ACT score of 29
- 100 community service hours
- The Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS), the second level, requires the following:
- SAT score of 1210 or ACT score of 25
- 75 community service hours
What are the steps to apply for Bright Futures as a homeschooler?
There are three main steps to apply for Bright Futures as a homeschooler.
- Submit the required community service hours
- get the target SAT or ACT score
- fill out the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA)
Here is a little more information about each of these steps..
1. Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA)
During the high schooler’s senior year, you will need to fill out the Florida Financial Aid Application or FFAA.
This will also allow you to apply for a Pell Grant and other financial help. You will need your latest tax return and other financial information for your family to fill this out.
This will take a little while to fill out, and a parent will definitely want to do this step with the senior.
The deadline to fill this out is the year of graduation by August 31, but you will probably want to do it when it opens in October.
Make sure to save your ID and password when you fill out the FFAA. You can use this to track your application, and update any changes to your financial status to the Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA).
2. Community Service Hours
The second requirement for Bright Futures is community service hours. These hours must be completed during the student’s high school years before graduation, beginning with summer before 9th grade.
You will want to check with your districted county to find out the approved activities, along with the process and deadline for submitting the community service hours. The hours cannot be completed for family members, and usually the student cannot receive school credit or payment for their hours.
You will need to follow your district’s guidelines to track and submit all forms and have them certified. The agencies where the service hours were earned must provide the total number of hours and dates of service completed on company letterhead.
The student will need to keep track of the completed service hours on a log, along with the dates.
Also, the student must identify a social or civic issue, develop a plan for addressing the issue, and evaluate or reflect on the community service experience. This must be submitted to the county, along with the completed hours log and letterhead before the district’s deadline during the senior year.
3. SAT or ACT Scores
The final requirement for Bright Futures is to submit the target SAT or ACT score. Students have until June 30, the year of high school graduation, to get the target score. Students can “superscore” either test by taking it multiple times and Bright Futures will take the highest math or reading score from different dates.
(The PSAT does not count for Bright Futures, unless you are applying for the GSV.)
When you register to take the SAT or ACT, make sure to choose at least one of Florida’s 12 state universities to receive the scores, which will put your scores in the FDOE system to access for Bright Futures. If you do not do this, you will need to mail an official sealed copy of the test scores to the Bright Futures office in Tallahassee.
If you want to learn more about the SAT or ACT, check out this quickstart guide to the SAT and ACT.
Again, homeschooled students do not need to submit a transcript or GPA.
Only the FFAA, community service hours, and SAT or ACT score are required for a homeschooler to get Bright Futures.
How long does a Bright Futures scholarship last?
Once the scholarship funds begin to be used, it will automatically renew each year if the student keeps the renewal requirements. These requirements include being enrolled for at least 6 non-remedial semester credit hours in a degree or certificate seeking program at an eligible Florida post-secondary institution.
If you do not use Bright Futures immediately after graduation, you have up to five years to re-apply to have your scholarship funds reinstated. You do still need to submit the the FFAA and the other requirements by August 31 on the year of graduation from high school to get the Bright Futures scholarship.
Have more questions about Bright Futures?
Here is a link to the Bright Futures Student Handbook with a section for home education students, as well as all test scores, award amounts, links for contacts, eligible institutions, and helpful websites, and lots of other information.
Hope this helped you to learn more about Bright Futures and how to take advantage of this Florida scholarship as a homeschooler. Comment below to let me know your thoughts and questions.
Here’s to a Bright Future for your homeschooler!