The HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Program was first created in 1993 by then Governor of Georgia Zell Miller. It was developed to help high achieving students pursue post-secondary education toward a degree or certificate. One of the first scholarships of its kind, the HOPE Scholarship is funded entirely by revenue from the Georgia State Lottery. The award has since split into two scholarships, the HOPE Scholarship, which helps to partially fund tuition for post-secondary education, and the Zell Miller Scholarship which will cover the full cost of tuition and a Georgia State institution and partial tuition at a Georgia-based private institution.


For either scholarship must be a U.S. Citizen or national, or a permanent resident and be eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant. Students interested in applying for either both the HOPE Scholarship and the Zell Miller Scholarship must be high achieving students at the top of their class, but the Zell Miller Scholarship are more rigorous. The scholarships are limited to legal residents of the state of Georgia and if required, have registered with the selective service.

The Hope Scholarship

The HOPE Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship.Applicants must graduate from an eligible high school with a minimum 3.0 “HOPE GPA” and meet specific rigor course requirements including having taken Honors, AP and/or IB courses as part of their coursework. The Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC) recalculates GPA to include only core courses of English, math, social studies, science, and foreign language. Because of these requirements, homeschooled students are not eligible to receive the HOPE Scholarship.

The Zell Miller Scholarship

The Zell Miller Scholarship is also a merit-based scholarship from the GSFC, but with much more competitive requisites.Awardees receivefull tuition at a public postsecondary institution in the state of Georgia, or tuition assistance at an eligible private Georgia-based postsecondary institution. Applicants must graduate from an eligible high school as valedictorian or salutatorian in addition to meeting the requirements of the HOPE Scholarship, or they may graduate with a minimum 3.7 Zell Miller GPA (calculated similar to the HOPE Scholarship) along with a minimum combined score of 1200 on the SAT or a composite score of 26 on the ACT. Unlike the HOPE Scholarship, homeschooled students may be eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship if the meet one of the two following requirements prior to completing their homeschool program:

  • Score in the 93rd percentile on the ACT or the SAT
  • Attempt 30 semester or 45 quarter postsecondary hours, completing them with a minimum 3.3 cumulative GPA, along with the required test scores.

Since the inception of this scholarship, several other states including Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky have adopted similar lottery-funded HOPE scholarships to support state residents attending state institutions of higher learning. If you are planning to attend an institution in your home state, check with the institution’s financial aid office to see if your state offers a HOPE Scholarship.