Did you know that you can "give" and "get" at the same time when you perform community service? I'm surprised to hear some of my high schoolers say that they haven't been advised about community service hours as a qualification for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships, so I wanted to pass that info along. And, summer is a great time to get started!
Florida Bright Futures Scholarships are available in three levels and can pay up to 100% of your tuition at an eligible Florida college or vocational school – depending upon your GPA, test scores and community service hours.
The levels are:
Florida Academic Scholars
Up to 100% tuition paid for up to 120 credit hours – typically enough hours to earn a Bachelor's degree. Requires a 3.5 GPA, 100 hours of community service, other test score requirements. More on floridastudentfinancialaid.org >
Florida Medallion Scholars Award
Up to100% tuition paid for up to 90 credit hours. Requires a 3.0 GPA, 75 hours of community service and other test score requirements. More on floridastudentfinancialaid.org >
Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award
Covers cost per credit hour. Requires a 3.0 GPA, 30 hours of community service and other test score requirements. More on floridastudentfinancialaid.org >
I encourage all of my high school students to get started on community service hours as soon as possible and work to have the other requirements met as well. Even if you're not planning on going to a Florida school, it only makes sense to reserve that option for yourself. The only thing better than earning your degree, is graduating without student loan debt!
Remember, volunteering is a win-win situation. While helping in your community, you are also reducing the cost of college attendance. So, go ahead and get started! Community service hours from as early as the summer before your 9th grade year can count toward scholarship requirements.
A Few Tips
- Pace yourself. Don't wait until your senior year to try and get 100 hours.
- Get Advisor clearance first. Talk to the College and Career Counselor or Guidance Counselor at your high school (or the high school you plan to attend if you're headed to the 9th grade). The counselor will give you a Community Service Proposal that you should submit before doing your hours.
- Make sure your hours will count. All "volunteer" hours aren't necessarily "community service" hours. It's important to know the difference. The main difference is that community service addresses a social issue like hunger, poverty, homelessness, the environment. So, feeding the homeless counts; running the video camera at your church doesn't. Submitting your Community Service Proposal and talking to your College and Career Counselor is one way to be sure your hours will count.
- Record your hours. Your college and career counselor will also give you a service log. If they don't, be sure to make your own including the dates of service, the hours worked, and the program coordinator's signature.
- Turn in your record each semester. Don't hold on to your log all year and risk losing it.
- Join a service club at your school. Some clubs, like Key Club (Kiwanis International) are all about service and provide a lot of fun opportunities to serve your community and earn hours at the same time.
- Stay up on the eligibility requirements! Check out the links provided above for annual updates to requirements and award amounts. I also recommend you check in with your college and career counselor annually.
- Keep your grades up! As mentioned above, GPA counts. If you're struggling in this area, we can help!
- Get SAT and ACT test prep. These scores count too. We can also help with test prep.
Here's a list of helpful volunteering websites:
Volunteer Match - a website that connects people to volunteer opportunities http://www.volunteermatch.org/
The Tampa Bay Times' printed list of great places to volunteer in Tampa http://www.tampabay.com/features/consumer/eight-ways-to-volunteer-in-tampa-bay/750484
The American Red
You can even volunteer in other countries through Cross-Cultural Solutions http://www.crossculturalsolutions.org
Chime in. Where are some of your favorite places to volunteer? Post it in the comments below.