Many people view Florida as a vacation destination with warm weather, an abundance of sunshine, sandy beaches, pools and theme parks. The Sunshine State offers much more than that though, especially when it comes to providing postsecondary educational opportunities to its residents.

Since 1997, the state’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program has been financially helping high school students living in Florida attend in-state colleges, universities and vocational schools with merit-based scholarships.

If you plan on starting a family or if you have children who are almost at the high school age, you may want to think about moving to the Sunshine State to help increase their chances of being able to afford and attend college.

Bright Futures Scholarship Program Background

The Bright Futures Scholarship Program is only for high school students living in Florida who want to go on to attend an in-state college, university or vocational school for their postsecondary education. If a Florida high school student decides to attend an out-of-state college, they will not receive any type of Bright Futures funding.

The program is funded by the Florida Lottery and, according to the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Statistical Reports, has disbursed over $6.8 billion in financial aid from the 1997-1998 school year through the 2019-2020 school year. During that time, over 2.8 million students have received funding from the program; this number includes first-time recipients and repeat-recipients.

During the 2019-2020 school year alone, 111,973 students (first-time recipients and repeat-recipients) received Bright Futures funding, which totaled to be over $6.1 million.

23% of Florida 2019-2020 high school graduates were eligible to receive funding and 18% went on to claim and use their scholarship awards.

General Initial Eligibility Requirements

Just because someone is a high school student living in Florida and attending a Florida high school does not mean they’re guaranteed funding from the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. There are other general requirements, grade point average (GPA) requirements, test score requirements and volunteer hour requirements a student must meet to be deemed eligible for the program.

According to the Bright Futures Student Handbook, the seven general, initial requirements for Bright Futures Scholarship eligibility include:

  • A student must be a Florida resident AND a United States citizen (or an eligible non-citizen, which is determined by the college the student wants to attend).
    • A student’s parents do not need to be Florida residents; to learn more about this portion of the rule, please read the handbook.
  • A student must complete the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) by August 31 of the same year of the student’s high school graduation.
    • This is a different financial aid application from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • A student must earn a standard Florida high school diploma or its equivalent from a Florida public high school or a private high school that is registered with the Florida Department of Education.
  • A student must NOT have been convicted of, or pleaded no contest to, a felony charge.
  • A student must be accepted by AND enrolled in a degree or certificate program at an eligible Florida public or independent postsecondary institution (college, university or vocational school).
  • A student must enroll in at least six non-remedial credit hours per term.
  • A student must qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship award as a senior in high school.
    • A student cannot retroactively receive a Bright Futures scholarship.

Types of Bright Futures Scholarships

There are four types of Bright Futures scholarships and each one has its own unique, initial eligibility requirements when it comes to GPA, test scores and volunteer hours. Each scholarship also has its own unique award amounts.

Florida Academic Scholars (FAS)

The FAS scholarship is geared towards students who earn A-grades and it’s the most competitive scholarship of the four from Bright Futures. It’s also the most lucrative scholarship.

To be eligible for an FAS scholarship as a high school graduate, a student must:

  • Receive a final minimum 3.50 GPA (weighted) in high school.
  • Have a minimum 29 ACT score OR a minimum 1330 SAT
    • The student must also ensure these tests have been taken by June 30 of the same year of the student’s high school graduation.
  • Accumulate a minimum of 100 community service hours.
    • This can be accumulated over the course of a student’s high school career.

A student who earns an FAS scholarship and will be attending an in-state public college will receive:

  • Funds to cover 100% of their tuition and applicable fees for the full duration of their time in their degree program.
  • A $300 stipend each semester to cover extra costs (such as room and board, books, lab equipment, etc.).

A student who earns an FAS scholarship and will be attending an in-state private college receives an adjusted amount of funding. According to the 2020-2021 Bright Futures Private Award Amounts calculator, the formula to find out what the student’s reward will be is:

  • (Cost per Credit / Clock Hour x Credit / Clock Hours Enrolled) + College-Related Expenses Stipend

To be eligible to continue to receive an FAS scholarship after a student’s first year in college, a student must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA (unrounded/unweighted).

The amount of credit hours a student needs to be enrolled in to continue receiving an FAS scholarship fluctuates based on the student’s enrollment type.

Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS)

The FMS scholarship is geared more towards students who earn B-grades. Though it’s also extremely competitive, it’s not quite as lucrative as the FAS scholarship.

To be eligible for an FMS scholarship as a high school graduate, a student must:

  • Receive a final minimum 3.00 GPA (weighted) in high school.
  • Have a minimum 25 ACT score OR a minimum 1210 SAT
    • The student must also ensure these tests have been taken by June 30 of the same year of the student’s high school graduation.
  • Accumulate a minimum of 75 community service hours.
    • This can be accumulated over the course of a student’s high school career.

A student who earns an FMS scholarship and will be attending an in-state public college will receive:

  • Funds to cover 75% of their tuition and applicable fees for the full duration of their time in their degree program.

Unfortunately, there’s no additional stipend that comes with earning an FMS scholarship.

A student who earns an FMS scholarship and will be attending an in-state private college also receives an adjusted amount of funding. The formula to find out what the student’s reward will be is:

  • (Cost per Credit / Clock Hour x Credit / Clock Hours Enrolled)

To be eligible to continue to receive an FMS scholarship after a student’s first year in college, a student must maintain at least a 2.75 GPA (unrounded/unweighted). The amount of credit hours a student needs to be enrolled in also is based on the student’s enrollment type.

Gold Seal Vocational Scholars (GSV)

The GSV scholarship is for students who want to pursue post-high school vocational and certificate degrees instead of attending a traditional 4-year college or university.

To be eligible for a GSV scholarship as a high school graduate, a student must:

  • Receive a minimum 3.00 GPA (weighted) in non-elective high school classes.
  • Take 3 full credits in a single Career and Technical Education program.
  • Receive a minimum 3.50 GPA (unweighted) in the Career and Technical Education courses.
  • Receive the following minimum scores on the ACT:
    • Reading: 19
    • English: 17
    • Math: 19
  • OR the following minimum scores on the SAT:
    • Reading: 24
    • Writing/Language: 25
    • Math: 24
  • OR the following minimum scores on the Florida Postsecondary Education Test:
    • Reading: 106
    • Writing: 103
    • Math: 114
      • The student must also ensure these tests have been taken by June 30 of the same year of the student’s high school graduation.
    • Accumulate a minimum of 30 community service hours.
      • This can be accumulated over the course of a student’s high school career.

A student who earns a GSV scholarship will receive:

  • Tuition paid for on a per-credit basis.
    • The award amount is not set in stone because it’s dependent on the types of classes a student takes and how many credit hours in which a student is enrolled.

The GSV funding is good 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.

To be eligible to continue to receive a GSV scholarship after a student’s first year in post-high school vocational school, a student must maintain at least a 2.75 GPA (unrounded/unweighted). The amount of credit hours a student needs to be enrolled in also is based on the student’s enrollment type.

Gold Seal CAPE Scholars (GSC)

The GSC scholarship is for students who are finishing an associate degree in science or applied science and who will then continue on to earn a Bachelor of Science and/or a Bachelor of Applied Science degree; the CAPE Program is part of the Florida Career and Professional Education Act’s goal to help expand and retain high-value industries and sustain a vibrant state economy.

To be eligible for a GSC scholarship as a high school graduate, a student must:

  • Earn a minimum of five postsecondary credit hours via CAPE industry certifications that count for college credit.
  • Accumulate a minimum of 30 community service hours prior to high school graduation.

A student who earns a GSC scholarship will receive:

  • Tuition paid for on a per-credit basis.
    • The award amount is not set in stone because it’s dependent on the types of classes a student takes and how many credit hours in which a student is enrolled.

The GSC funding is good for up to 60 credit hours and to be re-enrolled into the GSC scholarship for the next school year, a student must maintain at least a 2.75 GPA (unrounded/unweighted). The amount of credit hours a student needs to be enrolled in also is based on the student’s enrollment type.

Additional Bright Futures Scholarship Program Information

There are some other key pieces of information about the Bright Futures Scholarship Program students and their families should know before considering the idea of moving to the Sunshine State for educational purposes.

A student can also receive Bright Futures scholarships for up to five years after graduating high school to accommodate varying types of postsecondary education planning and scheduling. No letters of recommendation or entrance essays are necessary to apply for Bright Futures as well.

The Bright Futures Scholarship Program does NOT take the financial need of a student into consideration for eligibility. The program is strictly decided upon grades, test scores and community service hours.

A student will never receive any physical money from Bright Futures scholarships. If a student earns a Bright Futures scholarship, the financial aid office at the college the student decides to attend will receive the awarded scholarship amount and will disburse the funds into your account accordingly at the end of each semester’s add/drop period.

If a high school student attends a public Florida high school, the student’s official transcripts are automatically sent to the Florida Department of Education for Bright Futures evaluations. If a high school student attends a private, non-registered Florida high school, the student will have to submit their official transcript via email to OFSA.transcript@fldoe.org.

At test registration, any high school student in Florida taking the ACT or SAT should make sure to give permission for their test scores to be automatically sent to one of Florida’s 12 state universities or one of the public community colleges to speed up their Bright Futures evaluation.

If a student wants to know early if they’ve been awarded a Bright Futures scholarship, all their necessary information (transcripts, test scores, etc.) must be turned in by January 31 of the student’s high school graduation year. The student will then know their eligibility determination sometime in March. Otherwise, a high school graduate will find out their Bright Futures eligibility determination sometime in July.

As alluded to previously, a student is automatically re-enrolled into renewing their eligibility requirements each school year, though there is a minimum GPA a student must maintain and a minimum amount of enrolled credit hours a student must take to maintain their eligibility.

Postsecondary Schools in Florida

There are 40 public colleges and universities in Florida that offer 2-year to 4-year degree programs, not to mention a bevy of other private colleges as well. Some of the major state colleges include:

  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee
  • Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers
  • Florida International University in Miami
  • Florida State University in Tallahassee
  • University of Central Florida in Orlando
  • University of Florida in Gainesville
  • University of North Florida in Jacksonville
  • University of South Florida in Tampa
  • University of West Florida in Pensacola

Moving to Florida to give your children or future children a chance to be able to afford and attend college may not be the right decision for every family, but it’s important to know about the Bright Futures Scholarship Program in case the opportunity to move to the Sunshine State presents itself at some point in your life.