I received several questions this week about Bright Futures, the popular State-awarded merit scholarship funded by our Lotto dollars.  The 2014 application for Bright Futures officially opened on Sunday (Dec 1), so high school guidance counselors across FL have been talking to 12th grade students and parents today about how to apply.

Here are a few important notes about the Bright Futures program:

– Bright Futures scholarships are available to Florida residents who meet minimum academic and service requirements, and who attend a college in Florida.  There are three different award levels (based on student achievement) and the eligibility requirements/award amounts can/do change.  Click here to view what this year’s graduating students will be eligible to receive.

– Bright Futures awards can be used at all accredited Florida colleges, both public and private.

– TO BE CONSIDERED, students must complete and submit the Initial Student Florida Financial Aid Application in their last year of high school (12th grade), before graduation.   It’s really easy to do so; and though it’s not imperative to complete this application until June, I recommend getting it done now!

– Even if your student plans to go to school out of Florida and even if you do not plan to apply for any other financial aid, you should complete and submit this application.  You never know – financial circumstances can change, Junior may find that it’s too cold up north and transfer after a year or two; or some other reason may force a return to Florida. If you don’t have a Bright Futures application on record, you can’t get the money.  No Application on File = No Bright Futures Award (Ever)!
–  Bright Futures is a merit (performance-based) program (at least for now), and you no longer have to complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to be eligible.  That said, Bright Futures will only cover a fraction of the Total Cost of Attendance, and its future (pun intended) is uncertain.  Award amounts and requirements (Bright Futures must be re-earned annually) are subject to political will and budgetary constraints.

– Both the Florida Dept of Education and I encourage all families to complete a FAFSA (and a CSS Profile, if applicable) as well. Note that the lionshare of the $150 billion of grants/scholarships available to middle class families will be predicated on information you provide to your child’s university through the FAFSA and the CSS Profile.
Completing the Florida-based Bright Futures application is easy.  On the otherhand, completing a FAFSA, a Federal form, can be considerably more difficult.  And completing a CSS Profile (for select schools) can be a real pain in the @$$.  But worth it.   Consider that the Wall Street Journal continues to report that six-figure earners are ‘routinely’ earning five-figure awards.  (Last year, as in years past, my students have received an average of $33,000 per year – click here to see at which schools).

And if you want to know more about college funding strategies, including tips on appropriately preparing a FAFSA and how to qualify for all types of financial aid and merit inducements, then you should check out my January workshops in Weston and Miami.   If you are the parent of a 10th or 11th grader, don’t think you can put this off.  Once the calendar changes to January, 11th grade parents are suddenly “on the clock”.  If you want to know what that means, then come to one of my free classes.  The window of opportunity starts to close day by day, week by week.
Best,
Peter

P.S. To register for my workshop, click here.  You’ll be happy you did.

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