hope scholarship

HOPE Scholarship: Introduction

Working out how to pay for college can be stressful, especially as you juggle the other demands of transitioning from high school to college. Between applying for FAFSA and hunting down scholarships for college, there’s a lot to keep track of. It can be hard to know where to start. Here is one place to start: the HOPE Scholarship!  

Merit-based scholarships can be a fantastic place to begin your search for scholarships for college. What is a merit-based scholarship? A merit-based scholarship is awarded to students who have displayed excellence in art, academics, sports, or another category specified by the merit-based scholarship to which a student is applying. They can center around almost any talent imaginable. For example, Google hosts an annual competition in which they ask students to design a Google search doodle.

Merit-based scholarships are often need-blind. Therefore, they can be a good option for students who don’t qualify for the full amount of aid that they need.

In this article, we’ll discuss one merit-based scholarship in particular: the HOPE Scholarship. We’ll cover what the HOPE Scholarship is, how it works, and how to be competitive in the HOPE Scholarship application process.

In this ‘How to win a HOPE Scholarship’ guide we will also touch on:

  • Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship requirements
  • Using the HOPE Scholarship GPA calculator
  • Tennessee HOPE Scholarship and South Carolina HOPE Scholarship
  • The Zell Miller Scholarship, and more.

If you have your eye on winning Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship or any merit-based scholarships, you’re in the right place. This “How to win a HOPE Scholarship” guide will break down everything about the HOPE Scholarship, from applying to optimizing your odds to your options for colleges if you win.

Without further ado: let’s start exploring HOPE Scholarships.

What is a HOPE Scholarship?

Created in 1993, the HOPE Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship reserved for residents of Georgia. Since it is a merit-based scholarship, your high school GPA will primarily determine whether you’re eligible. We’ll go through the HOPE Scholarship requirements more in detail later.

Even though the HOPE Scholarship was originally established in Georgia, a number of other states now also offer HOPE Scholarships. For example, as well as Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship, there’s a Tennessee HOPE Scholarship and a South Carolina HOPE Scholarship. We’ll talk about the TN HOPE Scholarship and SC HOPE Scholarship in more detail later in this “HOPE Scholarship” guide.

Find out more about merit-based scholarships generally in this webinar

Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship (GA HOPE Scholarship) is funded by revenue from the Georgia lottery and was created by Governor Zell Miller. 

An incentive to go to college in Georgia

Similar to many other scholarships for college, the HOPE Scholarship was founded to help academically talented students who couldn’t afford college pursue higher education. However, the HOPE Scholarship was also created as an incentive program. The state of Georgia wanted to keep academically-minded students within the education system and to bolster the prestige of the state’s schools.

You can receive the GA Hope scholarship at a specific set of Georgia institutions. Each one has its own corresponding award amount. Since the scholarship’s founding, over $12.6 billion has gone toward helping 2.1 million students through college in Georgia. View each institution’s HOPE Scholarship award on the HOPE Scholarships website. To give you a sense of what to expect, Georgia Tech will pay a maximum of $10,258 for two semesters through the HOPE Scholarship.

Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship also funds another merit-based scholarship called the Zell Miller Scholarship. The Zell Miller Scholarship has the same eligibility requirements as HOPE Scholarships, in addition to more stringent requirements. The Zell Miller Scholarship is one of many merit-based scholarships Georgia state established after it set up the HOPE Scholarships.

We’ll discuss the Zell Miller Scholarship more extensively later in this “HOPE Scholarship” article. 

How much is the HOPE Scholarship?

Calculating the amount awarded to HOPE Scholarship winners can be tricky because each of the HOPE Scholarship colleges awards a different amount. 

According to the University of Georgia, the HOPE Scholarship pays the maximum amount for which you are eligible each semester, up to 15 hours of credit. HOPE Scholarships pay per credit hour. You can view the HOPE Scholarship amount per credit hour on the University of Georgia’s website

To give you a sense of what to expect, a HOPE Scholarship will pay $326 for 1 hour of enrollment at the University of Georgia. At the upper end, a HOPE Scholarship will cover $4,895 for 15 hours of enrollment at the university. 

Zell Miller Scholarship amounts

The Zell Miller Scholarship, on the other hand, covers the standard undergraduate cost of tuition. This means the Zell Miller Scholarship often awards a higher amount overall than the HOPE Scholarship.

Becoming one of the HOPE Scholarship winners—or winning the Zell Miller Scholarship—can make a huge difference in paying for college. Since its origin, more than 2.1 million students have been to college with the support of the HOPE Scholarship. 

By meeting the HOPE Scholarship requirements and keeping your high school GPA up, you could be one of the next HOPE Scholarship winners. In the next section of this “HOPE Scholarship” guide, we’ll talk about how to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship application. After that, we’ll talk about the Zell Miller Scholarship, and what you need to qualify for a Zell Miller Scholarship. 

Without further ado, let’s discuss the HOPE Scholarship requirements!

hope scholarship

How do you qualify for a HOPE Scholarship?

Typically, each state that offers a HOPE Scholarship has its own HOPE Scholarship eligibility requirements. Therefore, Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship has a list of HOPE Scholarship requirements known as “basic eligibility”. These are the residential HOPE Scholarship requirements that you must meet to qualify for the GA HOPE Scholarship.

The basic eligibility HOPE Scholarship requirements are that applicants must be: 

  • A Georgia resident
  • US citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Enrolled in an eligible Georgia college or university
  • In good standing on all student loans

In addition, they must meet the academic achievement standards as specified by the HOPE Scholarship. 

If you meet the above criteria, you are eligible to submit a HOPE Scholarship application. Once you’ve submitted a HOPE Scholarship application, you’re well on your way to joining the HOPE Scholarship winners. However, since this is a merit-based scholarship, there are also academic requirements.

In order to meet the academic HOPE Scholarship requirements, you must graduate:

  • From an accredited high school or home study program
  • With at least a 3.0 high school GPA

In addition to a student’s high school GPA, the HOPE Scholarship also calculates a metric referred to as the HOPE GPA. The HOPE Scholarship GPA calculator is different from a high school GPA calculator. Unlike a high school GPA, the HOPE GPA only includes core courses, as defined by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). 

Georgia first introduced the HOPE high school GPA in 2007. In addition, in 2011, it changed the high school GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant from 2.0 to 3.0. On account of this change in high school GPA requirements, nearly 9,000 technical students lost the HOPE Grant. Therefore, in 2013, the state reversed this decision, allowing 5,000 students to regain funding. 

HOPE Scholarship GPA Calculator

For the HOPE Scholarship GPA calculator, grades earned in GaDOE classes are weighed on a traditional 4.0 scale. In addition, Honors coursework is not weighted, unlike a regular high school GPA. Use the HOPE Scholarship GPA calculator to check if you exceed the threshold for this merit-based scholarship. 

In short, Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship requirements ask you to meet residency criteria and academic criteria, as well as show merit in your high school GPA and HOPE GPA. While these HOPE scholarship requirements are specific to the GA HOPE Scholarship, you’ll see similar HOPE Scholarship requirements for other states’ merit-based scholarships. 

Finally, you must submit the HOPE Scholarship application before the last day of a school term. However, submit your HOPE Scholarship application earlier if you can, in order to find out sooner whether you’re eligible for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship. If you are in a home study program, you’ll also need to take an academic evaluation to meet the HOPE Scholarship requirements. You can request this on the GAfutures website

What Georgia colleges accept the HOPE Scholarship?

Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship is accepted by most public, private, and technical institutions within Georgia. Some noteworthy examples are Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia. You can find the full list of colleges and universities that accept Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship here.

Note that this list applies to winners of the HOPE Scholarships, as well as the Zell Miller Scholarship.

As you can see from the list, becoming one of Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship winners can help you apply to a lot of colleges. However, note that, unlike many scholarships for college, you must attend one of the institutions on the list in order to receive aid. 

What is the Zell Miller Scholarship?

The Zell Miller Scholarship is a subdivision of Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship. Similar to the GA HOPE Scholarship, the Zell Miller Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship. Also, there’s a lot of overlap between the HOPE Scholarship requirements and the Zell Miller Scholarship requirements. 

Specifically, you must meet the same residency requirements for the Zell Miller Scholarship as you do for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship. This includes being a resident of Georgia. In addition, there are more stringent academic requirements for the Zell Miller Scholarship than there are for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship. Interested in the Zell Miller Scholarship?

Students who want to qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship must: 

  • Maintain at least a 3.7 HOPE GPA
  • Attain a minimum of 26 on the ACT or 1200 on the SAT
  • Earn a minimum of four full rigor credits (from the Academic Rigor Course List)

As you can see, the HOPE GPA (recall that this is different from your high school GPA) you need for the Zell Miller Scholarship is higher than for HOPE Scholarships. 

However, winners of the Zell Miller Scholarship also receive a higher award than the HOPE Scholarship winners. In fact, at eligible Georgia schools, the Zell Miller Scholarship will cover the full cost of in-state tuition. That makes the Zell Miller Scholarship one of the most generous merit-based scholarships available. Moreover, it’s one of the more generous scholarships for college in general.

Notable colleges and universities eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship include:

Find the full list of colleges and universities that accept the Zell Miller Scholarship here.

You can apply for the Zell Miller Scholarship by completing the GSFAPP or the FAFSA

Finally, if you are in a home study program, you’ll need to take an academic evaluation in order to be considered for the Zell Miller Scholarship. You can request this on the GAfutures website. 

Do other states have HOPE scholarships?

Not a resident of Georgia? You may wonder what your options are for merit-based scholarships if you don’t qualify for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship or the Zell Miller Scholarship.

Luckily, there are other HOPE Scholarships that you may be eligible for. In fact, there is both a South Carolina HOPE Scholarship and a Tennessee HOPE Scholarship. Both of these work very similarly to Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship. The TN HOPE Scholarship and the SC HOPE Scholarship are funded by their respective state lotteries. They’re also associated with a corresponding list of in-state eligible institutions. We’ll explore these HOPE Scholarships more later in this “HOPE Scholarship” guide.  

Other states that offer funding similar to the HOPE Scholarship include: 

In addition to these funding sources that are similar to the HOPE Scholarship, there are a few states that also have HOPE Scholarships. Let’s take a look at those now!

hope scholarship

Tennessee HOPE Scholarship

Similar to other HOPE Scholarships, the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship is funded by proceeds from the state lottery. The state founded the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship in 1993 and then signed into law in 2003. At the time, the TN HOPE Scholarship was one of only seven merit-based scholarships funded by state lotteries.

Winners of the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship receive up to $2250 per semester as freshman and sophomores and up to $2850 per semester as juniors and seniors. In order to apply for the TN HOPE Scholarship, you must meet the TN HOPE Scholarship requirements.

TN HOPE Scholarship eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Tennessee residency
  • Graduation from an eligible Tennessee high school
  • Enrollment in one of the public colleges, universities, or private colleges that are eligible for the TN HOPE Scholarship
  • Minimum 21 on the ACT or 1060 on the SAT
  • Minimum 3.0 high school GPA

If you meet the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship requirements, you can complete the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship application. You can do this through the FAFSA application before the start of your semester. 

Many colleges within Tennessee accept the TN HOPE Scholarship, including Vanderbilt University, the University of Memphis, and the University of Tennessee. View the full list of schools that accept the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship here.

As you can see, the TN HOPE Scholarship is very similar to other HOPE Scholarships. If you live in Tennessee, the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship can be a great way to make college more affordable. This is especially so when you pair the HOPE Scholarship with more merit-based scholarships and other scholarships for college.

South Carolina HOPE Scholarship

Similar to the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship and other HOPE Scholarships, the South Carolina HOPE Scholarship is funded by the South Carolina lottery. The state founded the South Carolina HOPE Scholarship in 2002. It is one of the state’s main merit-based scholarships. 

Winners of the SC HOPE Scholarship are given an award of up to $2800 to offset the cost of paying for college. However, unlike most other scholarships for college, the South Carolina HOPE Scholarship can only be applied to a student’s first year of a four-year course. Students receive half of the award in the first semester of their freshman years, and the second half in the second semester.

Similar to other HOPE Scholarships, applicants to the SC HOPE Scholarship must meet a number of HOPE Scholarship requirements to apply.

The SC HOPE Scholarship requirements say that students must:

  • Graduate from high school
  • Attend an eligible South Carolina public or private college or university
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and a resident of South Carolina
  • Enroll in a full-time, four-year institution of higher learning
  • Have a minimum 3.0 high school grade point ratio (based on the Uniform Grading Policy)

Finally, in order to be eligible for the SC HOPE Scholarship application, you cannot receive a LIFE Scholarship, Palmetto Fellows Scholarship, or Lottery Tuition Assistance

Once you have met the SC HOPE Scholarship requirements, you are eligible for the South Carolina HOPE Scholarship. Unlike other HOPE Scholarships, students who are eligible for the SC HOPE Scholarship don’t have to submit a HOPE Scholarship application. Instead, their college or university will determine eligibility for the SC HOPE Scholarship and let students know if they are. 

Wondering whether or not your institution offers one of the HOPE merit-based scholarships? Find a full list of institutions that offer a South Carolina HOPE Scholarship here

HOPE Scholarship: Final Thoughts

Finally, let’s review what we’ve learned in this “HOPE Scholarship” guide. 

Firstly, we explored what a “merit-based scholarship” is. Merit-based scholarships are scholarships for college, awarded based on a student’s academic or extracurricular achievements. 

The HOPE Scholarships and Zell Miller Scholarship are well-known examples of merit-based scholarships for college. HOPE Scholarships are funded by their state’s lottery profits and help students with a high GPA pay for tuition at eligible institutions. 

Unsure if you qualify for the HOPE Scholarships? There are many other scholarships for college available to you, beyond just the HOPE Scholarships and Zell Miller Scholarship.

Read CollegeAdvisor’s guides on other scholarships for college that you could apply for:

CollegeAdvisor.com also provides a free webinar for finding merit-based scholarships as a domestic student. This “merit-based scholarships” webinar is a 60-minute information session and Q&A. It focuses on identifying merit-based scholarships, telling your own unique story, and putting your best foot forward in merit scholarship applications.

You can also read Forbes’ list of the most generous and prestigious scholarships and fellowships for high school seniors. This list includes scholarships for college that center around everything from excellence in STEM fields to volunteers who have gone above and beyond for their communities.

Generous scholarship examples include:

Regardless of whether or not you qualify for HOPE Scholarships or the Zell Miller Scholarship, there are many options available to you. Further, as there is often overlap in the requirements for scholarships for college, qualifying for one merit-based scholarship can help you win several awards. 

Emphasis on academic achievement

Many merit-based scholarships place a high emphasis on GPA. For this reason, it’s important to put in the work early on in high school. This will give you the foundation for a competitive high school GPA. Select challenging classes and aim for strong grades. You should also challenge yourself to select compelling extracurriculars that push you outside of the classroom. 

This guide to HOPE Scholarships should help you feel more equipped to begin your search for scholarships for college. We know applying to scholarships, especially merit-based scholarships, can be stressful. Remember that it’s often a numbers game – you simply have to apply to enough awards for which you’re eligible. 

Finally, remember that CollegeAdvisor.com is here for you! Best of luck as you harness merit-based scholarships and transition to the next part of your life!

Zell Miller Scholarship

This article was written by Becky Weinstein. If you want to get help with your college applications from CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expertsregister with CollegeAdvisor.com today. Also, check out our other guides to Merit-Based Scholarships as you embark on your college application journey!