Bright Futures is a college scholarship funded by the state of Florida using a portion of the money collected from Florida's lottery. Using some of the money for college was part of how legislators got enough to agree to have a lottery decades ago. The scholarship was also part of an effort to end Florida's "brain drain" caused by so many Florida students leaving for colleges out of state and then never returning. Homeschool students are eligible for this scholarship--
in fact, more than a decade ago, Palm Beach County bragged on its website that it had the highest number of home education students in the state earning the Bright Futures scholarship.
What's required to get this scholarship that pays for college tuition (or a portion of it)?
For the latest most accurate information search online for the latest Bright Futures Handbook.
2021-2022 Bright Futures Handbook.
Currently, the rules differ for umbrella school students and for home education students. Most choose to go the home education route as it is easier to qualify, mostly because private school students (umbrella school students are private school students) must show a transcript with classes meeting Bright Futures standards. Home Education students do not have to show a transcript nor show certain courses were taken nor prove a certain GPA.
Home Education Students and Bright Futures
1. Time in home education
Must be home education students for all of 12th grade and at least the last part of 11th grade. (Otherwise, students can still aim for Bright Futures under the alternate process which requires taking the GED test.)
2. Community Service hours
Students must earn at least 75 hours for the lower level of scholarship or 100 hours for the higher level with appropriate documentation of all the hours to be given to the Home Education Liaison in the senior year after accounts with Federal Financial Aid and Florida Financial Aid are set up.
Documentation doesn't have to be on an official form. Many organizations can provide the information on their letterhead; some prefer that the parent give them a form. (The latest Bright Futures Handbook requires organization letterhead; if the organization wants you to provide a form, ask if you can copy one onto their letterhead or copy and paste their logo on a form for them to use.) For each date, list the hours served and the service done, the name of the person supervising with their signature and their contact information (phone number and email address). The name of the organization should be clearly indicated as well.
Updated June 2022: Newly authorized by Florida's legislature, 100 hours of work, if approved by the Dept of Education, can be used by home education students instead of unpaid community service. Details of how this will work will have to be determined. Reaching out to the local Home Education Contact person in your district is likely the best way to do this.
Also, documentation of community service or work hours must now be signed by the parent and student in addition to the supervisor in the organization that the hours were with.
3. Test Scores
The Handbook will list the minimum test scores on the SAT or ACT. These can be superscored (mixing the best score from each section of test if the test was retaken). Test scores must be sent to one of the 12 large universities in the Florida system or to the Home Education Liaison--usually in the senior year after financial aid accounts are set up.
4. Be Admitted
Be admitted to a College or University or trade school program accepting Bright Futures. If your student is admitted to a college, then the system assumes the homeschooling was good enough to qualify.
Taking some dual enrollment classes or otherwise earning some college credit before graduating high school can help with college admissions--especially to a bigger college, but your student doesn't have to take public school classes (such as FLVS) nor use public school curriculum to get the scholarship. Starting at a smaller community college can be a good way to begin and the scholarship can then transfer with the student.
There's no actual application for the scholarship. If the preceding steps are done, the student can track whether he or she has been granted the Bright Futures Scholarship through the Florida financial aid account.
Keeping grades up once the student is in college helps the student keep the scholarship in future years. The scholarship used to cover books and materials, but that changed in 2020 or 2021, but the scholarship can still be very helpful.