Financial Aid: To Apply or Not
A very good friend is currently exploring the private and independent school options in New York City. She was told from a highly sought-after educational consultant in the area that "if you need to check the “Applying for Aid” box on an independent school application, don’t even bother applying".
Having been on the Financial Aid Committee at a school in NYC and the Director of Financial Aid at another, I couldn’t disagree with this advice more, whether in NYC or elsewhere.
Independent and Private schools are focussed on increasing diversity and while ethnic diversity is at the forefront, socioeconomic diversity runs a close second on the agenda. Far too often, Aid is assumed to be all or nothing, when in actuality, financial awards can range from $1,000 up to a full ride, depending on the school. At independent schools throughout the northeast, an average of anywhere from 20-35% of students may receive aid dollars.
Financial Aid/Assistance is a tool schools have at their disposal to admit students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds who best fit their school community. Schools are not interested in creating divisive communities of only full tuition paying families and families receiving full aid. This scenario is in the best interest of no one. By awarding a range of aid packages, schools are better able to create inclusive and welcoming environments.
If a school wants to offer your child a spot they will do their best to make the program accessible. Financial aid programs are designed to meet you where you are financially. Which is not to say you should expect an award to erase tuition burden entirely. Private and independent schools are an investment and tuition is a real sacrifice for many families. Many families may still forgo the car upgrade or second home in favor of an independent school education.
As in all parts of the admission process, my advice to parents is to be honest with yourselves and admission staff about your current financial situation. If a Financial Aid Award is the only way the next tier of schools becomes an option for your child, check that “Applying for Aid” box on your admission application. Then start an open and honest dialogue with Admission and Aid Representatives and keep it going throughout the process.
PS - If you plan to apply for aid, please take financial aid deadlines seriously. Schools have a set number of financial aid dollars to award each year and they tend to go to families who adhere to application requirements exactly.