Part 1: Let’s Cover the Basics!

In Florida, we are proud to have accessible and affordable higher education options. Still, students and their families are wise to take advantage of every available scholarship to keep post-graduation debt as low as possible. To date, the Bright Futures Scholarship has helped more than 725,000 Florida students attend a postsecondary institution, and your student could be among that growing number! We have compiled this three-part series to provide an overview of the Bright Futures process from start to finish. In today’s installment, we will go over initial eligibility requirements. Let’s get started!

What are the student eligibility requirements?

Although the deadline for students entering college in fall 2018 to apply is August 31, students are encouraged strongly to submit all information prior to high school graduation. At the time of submission, students must meet all of the following requirements. The checklist below can help families track their students’ progress.  

  • Be a Florida resident and a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, as determined by the student’s postsecondary institution.
  • Complete the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA).
  • Earn a standard high school diploma or its equivalent from a Florida public high school, a Florida Department of Education registered private school or a home education program.
  • Not have been found guilty of, or pled nolo contendere 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 semester credit hours.

Are non-traditional students eligible for Bright Futures Scholarships?

Absolutely! Non-traditional students are eligible to apply for Bright Futures Scholarships, and they are encouraged to, just like any other Florida student. Non-traditional students include:

  • Home Education – students that do not attend public or private schools and are receiving homeschooling.
  • GED – students that did not graduate from high school. Instead, they went through a special program to receive the high school equivalency diploma.
  • Out of State – a student who earns a high school diploma from a Florida Institution while living outside of the state of Florida due to special circumstances such as full time religious or military obligations.
  • Mid-Year Graduates – a student who intends to graduate in the middle of an academic school year (Between September 1 and January 31).

Not all students pursue higher education right out of high school. Can those students still receive Bright Futures Scholarships?

Yes. Students who are not enrolling in a post-secondary institution immediately after high school graduation may apply within two years from the day of graduation to earn a Bright Futures Scholarship.

What if my student plans to attend a private school?

The Bright Futures Scholarship rewards eligible students for their hard work in high school whether they attend a public or private institution after high school graduation. Students attending a nonpublic institution will receive a comparable amount as noted in the Private Award Chart.

This concludes the first installment of our Bright Futures Scholarship series. Be on the look out for the second installment where we will discuss next steps after determining eligibility. Can’t wait for the next two installments to learn more? No problem! Everything you need to know about the Bright Futures Scholarship is available online at www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/ssfad/bf/.


Part 2: You’re Eligible. What’s Next?

Last week, we covered the Bright Futures basics, including eligibility requirements, necessary documentation and submission deadlines. Now it’s time to talk about what happens next. We’re staying consistent with the FAQ format to answer your questions about what to expect once you’ve completed the application process.

When do students find out if they qualified for a Bright Futures Scholarship?

Students who apply after October 1 will be notified of their eligibility in July. The Florida Department of Education also notifies the institution listed on each student’s Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA). If a student decides to attend a different school than the one listed on the FFAA, the student simply needs to notify the department by logging in HERE or calling 1-888-827-2004.  
Can Bright Futures Scholarships be used at a private school?

Yes, students are rewarded for their hard work in high school whether they attend an eligible public or private school after high school graduation. Students attending a nonpublic institution will receive a comparable amount as noted in the Private Award Chart.

How much of tuition and fees will be covered?

That is a great question! There are four different Florida Bright Futures Scholarship award levels. Florida Academic Scholars will receive an award to cover 100% of tuition and applicable fees and $300 for both fall and spring semesters for additional educational expenses.

Other award recipients will receive a fixed cost per credit hour based on award level, institution type, and credit type as outlined below.

Thinking ahead, what happens to Bright Futures funding if a student transfers to a different school?

Things happen, and we understand. Due to any number of circumstances, students may decide to transfer from one college or university to another, and Bright Futures funding can be transferred to eligible institutions as well. There are, however, a few important dates to keep in mind. Students wishing to transfer Bright Futures funding must notify the department by August 15 for Term 1 (fall), December 15 for Term 2 (spring), and February 15 for Term 3 by logging in HERE or calling 1-888-827-2004.

Next week, we will conclude the three-part Ready, Set, Go! Series by sharing information about Bright Futures renewal, restoration and reinstatement. We hope you’re as excited as we are!

Part 3: Keep Up the Good Work!

Last week, we discussed what to do now that you know you’re eligible for Bright Futures. This week we have given you three very realistic scenarios to explain the renewal, restoration and reinstatement process.

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Keysha

Keysha is a recent high school graduate who decided to attend her local university full time. She applied for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship as a Florida Medallion Scholar. Keysha has maintained the appropriate grade point average (GPA) and met all of the credit hour requirements, so she will not have to reapply for next year’s funding.

Keysha is the perfect example of a student in good standing with Bright Futures, which means she has one less thing to worry about.

Here’s why: Bright Futures recipients must meet an annual GPA based award level (for more on that, click here) AND earn the specified number of credit hours (the Bright Futures Credit Hour Interactive Tool can help with that). Since she satisfied both requirements, Keysha will be automatically evaluated for renewal and does not need to submit a renewal application. That means more time to plan next semester’s coursework and apply for summer internships!

Sarah

Sarah is also a recent high school graduate who applied for Bright Futures as a Florida Academic Scholar – the highest award level available. Sarah’s first semester went great, but she struggled during her second semester, and her GPA dropped to a 2.75. A GPA of 3.0 or higher is required to remain eligible for the Florida Academic Scholar award, and her parents are really concerned. Luckily, she did her research and is able to reassure them.

Here’s why: With her 2.75 GPA, Sarah still qualifies her for the Florida Medallion Scholarship, a lower award level, and she has the opportunity regain the Florida Academic Scholarship through the restoration process. Students who have not met one or more of the requirements to maintain their Florida Bright Futures Scholarship are given a one-time restoration opportunity. So, as long as Sarah buckles down and stays on track, her Florida Academic Scholar status can be restored. For more information on restoration, begin reading on page 6 of the Bright Futures Handbook.

Juan

Like Sarah and Keysha, Juan is also a recent high school graduate. He applied for Florida Bright Futures and learned that he was eligible for the Florida Academic Scholarship. He completes his first year of college, meeting all renewal requirements. Before he completes his degree, Juan feels called to serve his country and enlists in the military, where he serves for two years. When he returns from service, he returns to school full time and is able to pick up funding where he left off with his Florida Academic Scholarship.

Here’s why: Juan’s situation is actually very common, and there is a process in place for students who enlist in the military or engage in a full-time religious or service obligation to have their Bright Futures Scholarships reinstated. Students applying for reinstatement must complete a reinstatement application, available each February, and submit accompanying documentation. In Juan’s case, a DD Form 214 would be needed to verify time served. To learn more about reinstatement, see page 5 of the Bright Futures Handbook.

This concludes the Ready, Set, Go! Series. When it comes to scholarship funding, there are a plethora of options, and there is a great deal of information available at www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org that we hope you will explore. See you next time!

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