Secure Grants for Private Elementary Schools With These Seven Great Tips
For some families, the prospect of coming up with the 20 to 40 thousand dollars a year that it costs to send your child to a private elementary school can be more harrowing than the admissions frenzy itself. However, we believe your finances should not stand between your child and a top-notch education.
So we called our resident private elementary school admissions expert, Christina Simon of Beyond the Brochure, to give us some pointers on how to attain our ideal grant. Here’s what you need to keep in mind, in order to make the financial aid process go as smoothly as possible:
Tip #1: Be extremely organized.
File your taxes early. Have all your financial documents at the ready. Look them over and have a clear picture of your budget and how much you can afford to pay for tuition, not only the first year but for the entire span of your child’s elementary school education.
Don’t expect to get 100 percent of your tuition funded and keep in mind that there are expenses at private schools that are beyond tuition. Year after year, field trips, uniforms and related fees add up. A lot of times financial aid will cover these costs, but should it not, you need to be prepared.
Tip #2: Honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to money.
People can be funny about money. When it comes to financial aid, it’s crucial that you are not one of these people. Be open about your financial situation with your interviewers from the beginning. Don’t omit details you may find embarrassing, like a credit card debt situation.
If you feel you need to explain your financial circumstances further, by all means, go ahead. If, for example, you have an ill relative whose hospital stay you’re going to be subsidizing, so a chunk of your apparent income is actually not at your disposal, say so.
Tip #3: Be willing to make sacrifices.
Schools sometimes award financial aid with a few caveats. They may ask you to reduce your expenses. Remember, they have your entire financial records at their disposal. If you drive two cars, they may ask you to give up the second car. If you lease a very expensive car, they may ask you to trade in this lease for a more modest vehicle.
Schools are willing to work with families if they see a lot of potential in your child, but if you are resistant, doubts will arise on the part of the administrators. If you are committed to your child’s education, you should be open to the possibility that you may have to make some adjustments in your lifestyle.
Tip #4: The bigger the better.
Schools that are older and more established have a stronger alumni base and, in turn, larger endowments. These schools have more consistent funding and are more likely to be able to sustain financial aid year after year. Newer schools that lack endowments have been hit hard by the recent financial crisis. Their resources are, for the most part, devoted to helping the families of currently enrolled students who have been hit by hard times financially.
Tip #5: Hedge your bets.
Cast a wide net. Apply to at least 4 or 5 schools. While one school may award you a lean financial aid package, another might do better. If you’re going to go through the whole arduous process anyway, you might as well do it for more than one school. Sometimes, families can even negotiate with schools and receive a higher reward package than their initial offer. It varies from school to school, family to family.
Tip #6: Don’t be put off by the paperwork.
Don’t be deterred by the mountain of paperwork involved—just take it step by step. The school as well as the School Student Service (SSS), an independent organization that analyzes all your financial aid information, will help you every step of the way!
Tip #7: Don’t try to game the system.
The financial aid process is a separate application process from a schools’ admission application, but families in need of aid must go through both concurrently. Some schools are “need-blind,” that is to say they admit applicants regardless of whether or not they require financial assistance.
However, many schools cannot afford the luxury of a need-blind policy. When applying to these schools, parents sometimes delay applying for financial aid, fearing this will hurt their son or daughter’s chances of getting in. Instead, they plan on scraping together the money for kindergarten and applying for financial aid the following year.
Schools are aware of this and they hate it. If you choose this course, you are likely to have your application rejected the following year. The financial aid committee will see there has not been a change in your financial circumstances since the prior year, and will expect you to once again come up with the money without the school’s help.
By Cordelia Tai
Christina Simon is the co-author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider's Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. She is the mom of two kids, ages 9 and 12. Christina writes the Los Angeles private elementary school admissions blog, www.beyondthebrochurela.com and is an Elizabeth Street Mom.