How to Get the Best Scholarships for Florida Schools (UF, FSU & More)

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 2/18/20

Students applying to colleges and universities in Florida may be excited about their future, but the cost of higher education can be daunting. When applying to more than one school, financial advisors recommend that incoming college students request financial aid packages from each, so that they can compare offers. This is one of the best ways to get scholarships for Florida schools.

Colleges, universities, professional schools, and the Florida Department of Education offer scholarships for prospective college students. Whether the scholarship is state- or institution-based, students can allocate the funds toward both public and private education.

While each Florida scholarship has different requirements, most are awarded based on a combination of need and merit.

Top 3 Colleges in Florida With Great Scholarship Options

  1. University of Florida (UF): Located in Gainesville, this major university is home to the famous Florida Gators football team. In 2019, the incoming freshman class boasted an average GPA of 4.45 and an average score of 1388 on the SATs.

    While UF has high standards for prospective students, the institution also recognizes the need for financial assistance. As a result, UF offers access to several scholarships and grant programs.
    • Presidential scholarships: This isa merit-based award for incoming first-year students who are Florida residents and academically high-achievers. The scholarship is separated into three tiers: 
      • The Presidential Scholarship offers $5,000 per year for four years. 
      • The Gold Scholarship offers $8,000 per year for four years. 
      • The Platinum Scholarship offers $10,000 per year for four years.

        Applicants who submit information by the November 1st deadline are considered based on their admission application.
    • National Merit Finalists: High school students who report UF as their first-choice school to the National Merit Corporation by the required deadline can receive up to $500 from UF.
    • John V. Lombardi and the Stamps scholarship programs: These two merit-based scholarships go to outstanding Florida high school students attending UF who not only academically rank at the top of their class, but also demonstrate excellent service to their community through leadership, extracurricular involvement, and high moral character.
    • Out-of-state scholarships: Each year, UF has thousands of applicants from all over the United States. To help out-of-state students pay for their education, there are three academic merit-based scholarships:
      • The Alumni Scholarship of $8,000 per year for four years.
      • The Sunshine Scholarship, of up to $16,000 per year for four years.
      • The Gator Nation Scholarship, awarding up to $20,000 per year for four years.
  2. Florida State University (FSU): Founded in 2851, this university is the oldest continuously operating site of higher education. FSU boats a 93% freshmen retention rate, part of which has to do with the scholarship opportunities presented to students to help them afford a high-quality education.
    • National Merit Finalist/Benacquisto scholarship: This academic merit-based award covers the institutional cost of attendance for National Merit Finalists who have received their high school diploma. The total value is around $80,000 over four years. Receiving this award also guarantees admission to FSU’s University Honors Program.
    • University Freshman Scholarship: Freshmen who are accepted to FSU are automatically considered for this scholarship program, so you do not have to fill out a separate application. These scholarships are competitive and awarded on substantial academic merit, using a combination of your GPA and your standardized test scores. You can receive $2,400 per year for four years, for a total of $9,600.

      Since scholarship funds are limited and the program is highly competitive, you should apply as soon as possible. The deadline is November 9th.
    • Out-of-state tuition waiver: Students who are not Florida residents and demonstrate financial need and academic merit, can have up to 100% of their FSU tuition waived. This is valued at about $481 per credit hour or $14,444 per year, assuming 30 credit hours per academic year. This waiver does not apply to study abroad programs.
  3. Florida Institute of Technology: This college describes itself as “Florida’s STEM School,” focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs. To encourage more Florida residents and out-of-state students to attend this institution, the college provides various scholarship options.
    • Florida Tech family grants: Two grant awards fall under this category: the Legacy Grant, for sons and daughters of Florida Tech alumni, and the Family Grant, for sisters and brothers of Florida Tech students currently enrolled at the same time. Both grants offer $2,500 to eligible students, and each is renewable for up to four years.
    • Need-based grants: Students who complete the FAFSA and show a significant need for financial assistance are eligible for this award. The amount of the grant varies depending on how much need is not met by other scholarships, grants, and financial awards.
    • Out-of-state students: For students who are not Florida residents but wish to attend Florida Tech, aid packages can cover up to 50% of tuition. 

Florida State Department of Education Also Disburses Scholarships & Grants for Students

Another way to secure the best scholarships in Florida is through the federal and state applications. Florida student scholarship and grant programs require filling out an application, much like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is an online form called the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA).

This form determines your eligibility for Florida state-based scholarship and grant programs, which take financial need into account when awarding money to help students pay for their college education. Most post-secondary schools, including private and nonprofit colleges, state universities, and professional training schools, disburse FFAA awards.

Here are the top Florida state grant and scholarship programs you may be eligible for as a Sunshine State resident:

  • Access to Better Learning and Education Grant Program (ABLE): This need-based grant provides tuition assistance to undergraduate students in Florida who are enrolled in post-secondary degree programs at eligible private colleges and universities. Public school students are not eligible for the ABLE grant.

    To qualify for the ABLE financial award:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
    • You must have no money owed or be in default on state or federal grants, loans, or scholarships.
    • You have not previously received a bachelor’s degree.
    • You meet the FFAA general requirements for Florida’s financial aid.
    • You are not enrolled in a theology or divinity program.
    • Renewing applicants must have a GPA between 2.0 and 4.0.
    • Students must enroll in 12 credit hours or full-time.

Each private school will determine which applicants or current students are eligible for the ABLE award. The award amount is adjusted every fiscal year by the Florida State Legislature in the General Appropriation Act.

Recipients can receive the award for 9 semesters or 14 quarters. Summer disbursement is not part of the ABLE grant. 

  • Bright Futures Scholarship Program: This is a large state scholarship awarded to Florida residents who meet specific requirements. To qualify, you must:
    • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
    • Complete the FFAA by August 31 after your high school graduation with the minimum grade point average (GPA).
    • Have the minimum score on either the SAT or ACT.
    • Complete required service hours before high school graduation.
    • Earn a high school diploma or equivalent in Florida.
    • Have no felony charge convictions.
    • Enroll in a Florida-based post-secondary education program, from colleges and universities to professional schools.
    • Enroll in at least six non-remedial semester credit hours, or the specific school’s equivalent of half-time student enrollment.

      Once you meet the requirements above, showing financial need and academic merit, your Bright Futures scholarship will automatically renew every year that you fill out and submit the FFAA.

      The maximum amount of money you receive is based on credit hours and specific Bright Futures awards for which you are eligible.
      • Florida Academic Scholars can receive up to $212.71 per credit hour.
      • Florida Medallion Scholars can receive as much as $159.53 per credit hour.
      • Academic Top Scholars can get up to $44 per credit hour.
  • First Generation Matching Grant Program: This need-based grant is for undergraduate students who are Florida residents seeking degrees through accredited degree programs. Eligible students must have parents who have not earned a bachelor’s or higher degree.

    To apply for this award, you must:
    • Fill out the FAFSA.
    • Follow the application procedures of post-secondary schools.
    • Be a Florida resident and either U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
    • Not have previously earned a bachelor’s degree.
    • Enroll in a minimum of six credit hours (half-time).

Students can receive disbursements of this award each term, except for summer, through their post-secondary education. 

  • Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program (FFSS): This is a need-based merit scholarship that offers financial aid for up to 50 eligible students who are either farmworkers or children of farmworkers. The award is equal to the amount of tuition and associated fees at a public secondary institution to which the student has been accepted.

    To qualify for this award, in addition to being a farmer or the child of a farmer, you must:
    • Be a Florida resident.
    • Earn a GPA of 3.5 for all high school courses.
    • Complete a minimum of 30 service hours.
    • Have a 90% school attendance rate.
    • Have no disciplinary actions brought against you in school.

Whether you are a current resident of Florida or living out of state but interested in a Florida college, you have several options for financial assistance.

Most of the Florida scholarships listed are awarded to Florida residents, so you may want to obtain resident status before attending school there. However, recent high school graduates who live in other states can still apply for Florida scholarships, either through the state’s department of education or through the individual college or university.

If you don’t qualify for the various state- or institution-based scholarships, federal and private student loans can make higher education affordable. While federal loans typically offer better terms, interest rates, and benefits compared to private loans, scholarships and grants are always preferable. Before you take out a loan and incur debt, make sure you’ve explored all scholarship and grant options.