The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is a social club with lodges throughout the U.S. All lodges in Florida have the opportunity to join the Florida State Elks Association, a charity that provides programs and services for children. The more than 60,000 members of the Elks who belong to the Florida State Elks Association sponsor the HOPE Scholarship, a financial aid award available only to residents of Florida. Any graduating high school senior who is a resident of Florida and a U.S. citizen who plans to attend an accredited college or university is eligible. After receiving all of the application, the Florida State Elks Association uses numerous criteria to select winners.
Financial need is one of the primary criteria by which applicants are judged. The scholarship application includes a form that asks questions about students' parents income, assets and liabilities. From this information, the club determines how much need each applicant has, giving priority to those who need the most.
Academic merit is another deciding factor in the awarding of the Florida HOPE scholarship. The Florida State Elks Association requests copies of students' transcripts from seventh through 12th grade as well as their SAT or ACT scores. In addition, students must have their school guidance counselors complete a recommendation form. This asks questions about how rigorous students' academic coursework was, their class rank and whether the counselor would recommend them for the award.
Students must provide details about what types of extracurricular activities they are involved in, and any leadership roles they hold within these activities. Information about work experience, community service and awards that students have won can also determine the winner. All applicants must complete an essay on a theme chosen by the association for that year. Two letters of recommendation are also necessary.
The Florida State Elks Association awards HOPE scholarships at both the local, regional and state level. Amounts and the number the awards vary based on the availability of funds and the number of winners. When announcing the 2011 scholarship program, the association anticipated it would award a total of about $30,000 to students for that year. To apply for the HOPE Scholarship, students can visit the association's website and download the form. Once completed, students return it to their local Elk Lodge, which endorses the scholarship and then submits it.