Insider tips on financial aid.

Financial aid for private schools is much different than financial aid for college.  The main source of financial aid for private schools will come from the schools themselves in the form of a tuition discount. 


There are 5 main ways to fund a private school education: 


1.                  Need based financial aid – Typically you will have to re-apply each year for this aid.  Most private schools use a third party service to help calculate the family’s expected contribution.  The most popular service used by schools is administered by the National Association of Independent Schools.  Families are asked to submit tax returns and provide information on income, assets (including the make, model and year of the car(s) owned) and liabilities. 

2.                  Merit based – This type of aid is usually very limited and comes in the form of scholarships.  These scholarships may be awarded to students schools want to attract.  These students may have an outstanding talent in academics, sports or the arts.  These scholarships are sometimes funded by alumni, and are often targeted to specific groups designated by the benefactor.  Schools do not typically have separate applications for scholarships.  Students are often automatically considered for any applicable scholarships.

3.                  Sibling discounts – Some schools offer a sibling discount for families with more than one student enrolled in the school.  Check with the school’s financial aid office about whether or not they offer a sibling discount.

4.                  Payment plans – Some schools contract with a third party to allow parents to spread out the cost of tuition over the school year.  There is often a fee associated with these plans, but they can be a great way for families to manage private school tuition expenses.  Check with the school’s financial aid office to see if they offer a tuition payment plan.

5.                  Loans – It is possible to obtain loans for private school tuition.  Typically loans can be repaid over several years.  The school may have a relationship with a lender, so check with them first.  You can also research lenders on-line to compare interest rates and repayment terms.


Below is a list of things to keep in mind regarding financial aid.


  • Schools should be able to tell you both their total financial aid budget, and the average aid award per student.  This will give you a sense of how much money the school allocates to financial aid.
  • Don’t miss deadlines for applying for financial aid.  The deadlines are often hard and fast.  We have had families miss the deadline, and they have been told that all the aid had been awarded for the year.  The students were admitted to the schools, but with no financial aid they were unable to attend the schools.
  • Ask the school if admissions and financial aid are independent.  Some schools will have a “needs blind” policy, where they pledge to meet 100% of the demonstrated need of accepted students.  Other schools will not have the funds to be able to commit to a “needs blind” admissions policy.
  • Some schools require families to make a minimum contribution towards tuition.  Ask the school if they have a minimum contribution policy so you understand what is expected.  Realize that many schools will want families to “have some skin in the game” and it is very rare that a student will be offered a full tuition award.
  • Be sure to factor in all costs of attending the school.  In addition to tuition there are often fees for uniforms, books, transportation, class trips, etc.  Check with the school to get a sense of any additional fees which families will be asked to pay.  Sometimes these costs can add thousands of dollars to the cost of tuition.
  • Some schools offer no financial aid.  It is best to check with the school to see if they offer financial aid, as it is not a given that all schools offer aid.
  • Be honest and up front about your needs from the get go.  Private schools typically budget financial aid by class.  Many schools will send you a letter if you do not request financial aid the first year explaining that only a major change in circumstances (generally a job loss or a death in the family) will make families eligible for aid.  Some families think that they can increase their chances of acceptance if they do not request financial aid when they apply.  They plan to then apply for aid in subsequent years.  Without a major change in family circumstances you are not likely to receive aid in subsequent years.