Because the main purpose of the HOPE program is to encourage young people to achieve, a student has to maintain a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher through high school to qualify. The average should be based on all courses attempted, even if dropped. However, grades for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate are weighted differently than those for standard courses [source: HOPE GPA].
The rules also allow for students who complete a HOPE-eligible home study program to win a scholarship with a 3.0 GPA. To be HOPE-eligible, the program must be accredited by the Georgia Accrediting Commission or a similar agency. If the student's high school or home study program doesn't meet these requirements, he or she still can win a HOPE Scholarship by scoring in the 85th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT tests or by maintaining a 3.0 GPA in college [source: Home Study].
Even after making the grades, to receive a HOPE Scholarship, a student also must attend an in-state college or university. In Georgia, this means a public school like Georgia State University or a private institution like Emory University in Atlanta.
There are a number of additional requirements [source GAcollege411]:
- The student must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen (permanent resident).
- The student must be a Georgia resident upon graduating from high school and for 12 months before.
- If applicable, the student must complete Selective Service registration.
- The student must comply with the Georgia Drug Free Postsecondary Education Act
- The student must not be in default or owe a refund on a student loan.
The HOPE Scholarship program is relatively easy to apply for. In part, the process depends on the college the student is attending, so applicants should check with their college's financial aid office for specific details. One option is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Alternatively, you can obtain a printed or electronic application online. Students can begin the process at GAcollege411.You don't necessarily have to apply before you start college, but you must complete the application before the last day of classes of the term for which you want to receive funds. If you're transferring in from an out-of-state school and were not named a HOPE scholar when you graduated from high school, you'll have to wait until you've attempted 30 credit hours of course work before you can be considered for the program [source: UGA].
Getting a HOPE Scholarship is only the beginning. There are also certain requirements you'll have to fulfill in order to keep it. In the next section, you'll learn what you need to do to maintain a HOPE Scholarship through college.