Better Returns than Buffet's: The Bright Futures Scholarship

The Investment Value of Test Prep for the SAT & ACT

By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: October 3, 2021

warren buffet

Are you wondering how does Bright Futures Scholarship works? Let us explain.

We understand that Return On Investment can go hand-in-hand with risk: no pain, no gain. But how would you respond to a proposed investment of $2,000 that could result in saving between $19,759 (a 957% return on your money) and $30,528 (a 1,526% return on your money) over roughly four years? While this investment isn’t risk-free, it is low risk, assuming you have a student willing to work hard and follow instruction. Simply put, this investment is in test preparation for the SAT and ACT! When paired with a motivated student (and the right test-prep tutor), the result is a hefty scholarship from Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarships (BFSs).

Ever since the scholarship’s inception about 20 years ago, Florida families with students who qualify for BFSs and who attend qualified Florida post-secondary educational institutions have saved tons of money on tuition. But the most commonly asked questions remain: how does Bright Futures Scholarship work and how does one qualify for it? There are multiple ways to qualify (you can visit this link to learn about all of them): most students qualify by taking certain courses, achieving a GPA of 3.0 or better, attaining certain minimum scores on SAT or ACT tests, and accumulating certain levels of service hours while in high school.    

General qualifications for BFSs include

  • Florida residency and US citizenship (or being an eligible noncitizen, as determined by the post-secondary system being attended)
  • A Florida high school diploma or its equivalent from a Florida public high school or a registered Florida Department of Education private school
  • Completion of a Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) by August 31st of the year of high school graduation
  • Acceptance by, and enrollment in, a degree or certificate program at an eligible Florida postsecondary institution
  • Maintaining enrollment at that postsecondary institution for at least six (non-remedial) credit hours per term
  • Never having been convicted of (or pleaded “no contest” to) a felony charge

We focus here on two types of BFS awards, the Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) and the Florida Merit Scholars (FMS), with coursework, GPA, ACT/SAT minimum scores, and service hour requirements for both:

While some students can achieve the scores required by the BFS without any assistance, the vast majority require help. That’s where we come in – with private and/or group test prep –which forms the basis of the investment opportunity that we described above in the opening of this blog. In short, we’re here to help students understand exactly how the Bright Futures Scholarship works.

We compared the financial costs to graduate from the 12 Florida State University System schools with the per-credit-hour awards for the FAS and FMS, calculated the savings accumulating using the credit hours needed to graduate, and then computed a return on investment based on a $2,000 investment in test prep (some families invest more, some less. We picked a round number reflecting a fairly rigorous test prep regime). Here are our findings:

Bright Futures Savings Over 4 Years and the ROI from test prep

The highest ROI, at a whopping 1,526% (saving you more than $30,000), would occur with a FAS award for a student attending the University of West Florida, and the lowest ROI, at a still-exceptionally-good 957% (a measly(!) $19,143.60 savings), would occur with a FMS award for a student attending FA&M, FGCU, FIU, FL Poly, FSU, New College, UF, UNF, or USF. Compared to Berkshire Hathaway's ROI over the last five years — approximately 12% — I'd take the test prep investment any day!

How to Boost Your Chances of Winning the Bright Futures Scholarship

By winning the Bright Futures Scholarship, students can save up on the bulk of their tuition expenses for up to five years. However, it is important to ensure that the Bright Futures application is filled out properly so it stands out.

Fortunately, students have a great deal of control over the four key eligibility requirements, i.e., the coursework, GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and the service hours. Mentioned ahead are some tips on how you can meet all of these requirements.

  • Coursework

Students studying in any Florida high school would be on track to fulfill all the requirements related to the coursework. For any additional concerns, it is advised to seek advice from a professional counselor. They can help determine whether or not the student’s schedule needs to be adjusted.

  • GPA

Winning the FAS scholarship can be difficult given the competition involved. Students whose GPAs aren’t high enough to earn it can work towards the FMS, GSV, or GSC scholarships.

Students also need to bear in mind that all the GPA requirements are weighted. If the current GPA is found to be unweighted, there’s a chance that the weighted GPA will be higher if any advanced or honors classes were undertaken by the student.

It is best to seek help from your nearest guidance counselor to calculate your weighted GPA accurately.

  • SAT/ACT score

Improving SAT or ACT scores can prove to be a crucial move in winning the Bright Futures scholarship. A higher score will mean more scholarship opportunities, along with better-ranking school options.

Students can benefit from starting their test preparations sooner rather than later. This may also mean taking the tests earlier. Preparations should start anytime between the end of the sophomore year through the start of the junior year.

To maximize these scores, it is advisable to choose one exam between the ACT and SAT and focus on it single-mindedly. In case of any confusion, talk to a professional guidance counselor as they’ll be able to help you understand which test to take. Further, experienced test prep tutors can help students with strategies for improving their ACT and SAT scores.

  • Service Hours/Work Hours

Consistency is key when it comes to fulfilling the minimum service/work hours requirements. Setting a realistic and fixed schedule (that can be followed every week) can be immensely helpful.

Apart from consistency, students should consider fulfilling their required community service hours earlier than later. That way, there’ll be fewer volunteer hours every week. For example, a student starting as freshman will need to volunteer for one hour every two-to-three weeks. But a student starting as a senior will have to volunteer one-and-a-half to two hours every week. New for the 2022-2023 school year, and beyond, the State has implemented an alternative to the service hours, now students can submit work hours in lieu of service hours (100 hours for both levels of the scholarship). 

Students can either maintain their own record of volunteer service hours or work with a proven agency that can consistently track their hours for them.

Some of the best places to do community service include hospitals, animal shelters, schools, food banks, nursing homes, museums, libraries, parks, and even places of worship.

This isn’t rocket science: All of those ROIs are outstanding, and – because we’ve helped countless students increase their SAT and ACT scores – it’s well worth the “risk” to invest in test prep. Call us today to find out how the Bright Futures Scholarship works and how we can help, or better yet, check out our Eagle Eye Test Prep promo that's available this summer!


Topics: ACT/SAT Test-Prep Financial Aid

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