Tennessee Hope Scholarship VS The Tennessee Promise: What's The Difference?



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Okay, so I'm just going to say, if you don't live in Tennessee, this post isn't for you.

Talk to you later!

But...if you do (like myself) live in the great state of Tennessee, keep reading...

I received a question last week asking "what is the difference between the Tennessee Hope Scholarship and the Tennessee Promise?"

Fair question. 

While the TN websites for each are fairly straightforward, there really isn't that much that concisely deals with what the difference is between the two, so I wanted to address that here.

SHORT ANSWER: The Tennessee Hope Scholarship is a 4-year scholarship funded by the state lottery that can be applied to any college/university in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Promise Scholarship covers the full tuition for an associate's degree at certain eligible schools including community colleges, colleges of applied technology, and select private or public universities.



The Tennessee Hope Scholarship is what you would think of as a typical scholarship. You meet the criteria, you get the award. Since it is funded by the state's lottery, it's relatively straightforward and pretty much guaranteed as long as you meet the criteria:


  • Must be a Tennessee Resident
  • Must have graduated from a TN-eligible high school (with a few exceptions)
  • Have a minimum 21 ACT / 1060 SAT OR a 3.0 GPA (note that the GPA option is not available for homeschool students, whether homeschooling independent or under an umbrella school, though homeschoolers CAN use GPA from Dual Enrollment classes to qualify by maintaining a 3.0 college GPA from 6+ credit hours, full details here)
  • Must enroll in a Tennessee college or university (list of schools available here)
  • Must enroll in school within 16 months of graduating from high school


If you meet all the eligibility requirements, your award amount generally will be $1,750 per full-time semester for your freshmen and sophomore years, then $2,250 as a junior and senior (details here).


Applying for the Tennessee Hope Scholarship is simple, all you have to do is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


To keep the Hope Scholarship, students must:

  • Be enrolled full-time for the semester.
  • Maintain a minimum of a 2.75 cumulative GPA at the end of the semesters in which the student attempts 24 and 48 semester hours (typically equating to the Spring of their Freshman and Sophomore years of college) and a 3.0 GPA at the end of the semesters where the student attempted 72 and 96 semester hours (typically the Spring of their Junior and Senior years of college, details here).
  • Re-apply each year by completing the FAFSA annually. 

Full details about the Tennessee Hope Scholarship can be found on the TN State Government website here.

Dual Enrollment

The Hope Scholarship can also be used to pay for Dual Enrollment courses for Tennessee residents! You can read more about that here.



The Tennessee Promise (or Tennessee Promise Scholarship) is structured differently, to cover 100% of tuition towards your Associate Degree or technical certification at a community college, tech school, or approved private or public college that has an associate program. 


  • You must be a Tennessee resident and US citizen/eligible non-citizen.
  • You must graduate from an eligible high school, homeschool, or earn a GED/HISET prior to your 19th birthday.


The Tennessee Promise is a "last-dollar" scholarship at community colleges/tech schools, meaning it will cover 100% of tuition after other scholarships/awards (ie, you cannot get reimbursed/make money off of the Tennessee Promise).

The Tennessee Promise is NOT a "last-dollar" scholarship at 4-year colleges/universities, meaning it will only cover up to the cost of the average amount of tuition and fees at a community college (currently $4,200). 


  • The application for the Tennessee Promise is VERY particular on meeting set deadlines!
  • You must complete the online application by November 1. This is a firm deadline and cannot be missed.
    • Go here, click "Register," create a user name and password, then click "Create a Log In."
    • Create an account. You must know:
      • Student’s First Name and Last Name – as it appears on the Social Security card
      • Student’s Social Security Number – as it appears on the Social Security card
      • Student’s Date of Birth
      • Student’s email address (if available)
    • Once you have created an account, you must re-enter your Username and Password and answer the challenge question.
    • You must then accept the "User Agreement," click the "Apply for Scholarship" button and then click the Tennessee Promise scholarship program.
  • You must be working towards an associate degree or technical degree (a list of approved schools can be found here).
  • You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by MARCH 1.
  • You must attend the mandatory meeting coordinated by your county's partnering organization (you can find contact information for your region here, locations and dates will be announced at a later date).
  • Finally, you must complete 8 hours of community service between November 1 and July 1.

(NOTE: The above image is for 2020-2021, dates have changed, Image source here)


  • Once you have qualified for the Tennessee Promise, you must maintain a 2.0 GPA at the community college or 4-year college/university (or satisfactory progress at a TCAT).
  • You must complete and report 8 hours of community service before the start of each term.
  • You must complete the FAFSA by the required deadline each year.
  • Failure to meet any deadline will result in loss of the scholarship.

Full details about the Tennessee Promise can be found here and here.



Okay, so free college sounds AMAZING, but there's an important question you need to ask:

Is the Tennessee Promise a good fit for you (or your teen)?

The Tennessee Promise requires for you to get a technical degree or associate degree.

There is increasing demand for people with specialized degrees and certifications, so this path is generally speaking a great route, but it doesn't make sense for all career paths.

Some considerations:

  • Do you have a degree/career path in mind?
    • Associates and technical programs are generally speaking very focused and specialized, and usually not a good fit for "undecided" students.
    • Want help determining a career path? Check out our Career Prep Challenge, a 4 week guided mini-course that helps you explore your personality in context of career options!
  • Does your degree/career path require a 4 year (bachelors) degree? And if so, are there courses that need to be taken for your degree your freshman/sophomore year?
    • For some degrees the first two years are just general studies and it doesn't matter if you get an associate degree first, and then transfer to finish up your last two years of your degree. Tennessee Promise is a great tool in these scenarios.
    • For others (like music or engineering) there are courses you have to take your first two years of college to be able to graduate on time. Getting an associate degree and then transferring to a 4-year institution does not typically save you time or money if this is the case for you. The Tennessee Promise does not typically make sense in these situations.
  • There also are some instances where you should give thought to the value of staying at one school for 4 years. Getting an associate degree for free at a community college and then transferring can sound great in theory, but there are some situations where the value of building report with professors over 4 years might be worth the extra expense.

What if I'm not sure? Is there a downside to applying for the Tennessee Promise and then changing my mind later?

Nope, there is no dowside. If you think there is a chance your teen might go to a community college/associate program/technical school, then APPLY for the The Tennessee Promise! You change your mind later and go a different route, but if you miss that application deadline then there is no going back!


In Conclusion...

So there you have it! An overview of the Tennessee Hope Scholarship versus the Tennessee Promise (and some criteria to evaluate when the Promise makes sense). I hope this was helpful! If you would like help exploring career paths I would encourage you to check out our Career Prep Challenge

Looking for personalized help through the college prep process? You can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with college prep consultant Matthew Bullington here.

What questions do YOU have about the Tennessee Hope Scholarship, Tennessee Promise, or college prep process? Post in the comments below!


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