If you are a high school student or a parent of a high school student, the typical approach to the scholarship search process begins the second half of Junior year or perhaps the end of Senior year in high school. However, since most academic based scholarships, like the Hope Scholarship, look at the overall grade point average (GPA) earned on core high school classes, grades earned the first semester of Freshman year are just as important as grades earned the last semester of the Senior year. It is the wise student that prepares for the Hope Scholarship Requirements starting the first day of Freshman classes. In fact, since Freshman classes may be easier, from an academic point of view, than Junior and Senior level classes, it may be more important to concentrate on getting “A” results in the Freshman year. These results will act as a base line to shore up the GPA when the harder classes hit later in the high school career.
This is an easy recommendation to make but a hard recommendation to follow for most 14 year old high school Freshman. It takes a creating a strategy by the parents and the student, a desire to follow the strategy, along with the willingness and ability to prioritize homework, test study, projects, and reading over sports, video games, and watching TV. In other words, it takes hard work. However, the work is well rewarded. In the state of Georgia, there are two version of the Hope Scholarship — the Hope Scholarship and the Zell Miller Scholarship. The regular Hope awards a portion of tuition while the Zell Miller awards 100% of tuition to the student.
As an example, the Hope Scholarship maximum for the University of Georgia is $3181.50 per semester. Over the course of 8 semesters, or 4 full years of college, this adds up to a healthy $25,452. The Zell Miller paid $3461 in 2011. Assuming flat tuition, which will never happen, this equates to $27,688 over 8 semesters. It will actually be higher since the Zell Miller rises with tuition rates. Lets look at one way to value the Hope. Take $25,452 over 4 years in high school. This is $6363/year non-taxed. This would be equivalent to about $8000/year of taxed income. If we assume 5 academic classes a semester or 10 academic classes a year, this equates to about $800/academic class over each year in high school. The average class will have a combination of, perhaps, 6 tests and 10 homework or other graded assignments for a total of 16 gradable events giving an average of $800/16 or $50 per event. So, every homework assignment, every test, every project that your Freshman grumbles about, or you grumble about when helping, is worth about $50 to you. However, the Hope Scholarship Requirements are hard and fast. If you slack off on a test here or a project there, you run the risk of not just burning up a $50 opportunity on that assignment but a catastrophic loss of the whole $25,452 if you drop below the minimum GPA.
As a word of warning and just something to think about, the Hope Scholarship Requirements will probably become more difficult as time passes. This is due to the reduced funding from the Georgia lottery along with increasing tuition rates and more students utilizing in state colleges. In other words, the money is not keeping up with demand so either the funding needs to increase (probably not going to happen), or the demand needs to decrease. The only way to decrease demand is to tighten down on the requirements which means increasing the minimum GPA. So, work as hard as you can your Freshman year and keep it up throughout your tenure in high school. You may be rewarded well for your efforts.