Finding and Funding a Private School Education

If only I had the money to send my children to private school. Well, maybe you don’t have the money, but you have resources to find it, and you may not need to wait for vouchers.

Many parents turn to private schools as alternatives to problems their children encounter in public education. There’s more to sending your child to private school than paying the tuition. You need to do some homework first!

The first thing to consider about a private school is how well the school fits your child and your family’s values. What is the philosophy of education and child development? Is it one you share? If the school is affiliated with a religious group, is it consistent with your own family’s religious practices and values, or does it contradict them? Working with the admissions administrators, you need to determine if the school is a good fit for your child. Fleeing to a private school because “anything’s better than the available public school” can be a costly mistake if parents do not know what they are getting into.

Start looking for private school alternatives before the crisis hits. Many good private schools have waiting lists, and are selective about the students they admit. Money is not the only factor – they may choose to admit a good student who depends on financial aid rather than a wealthy student who is disruptive, or requires additional educational services that they are not able to provide. For many independent schools, the admissions process begins during the fall of the school year prior to the one for which admission is being sought. If you wait until spring, you may need to wait longer or be waitlisted for space available.

Tuition assistance for private and parochial schools comes from several sources. Many independent schools raise funds for tuition assistance through their development office. The benefit for them is that they are better able to attract quality students from a wider group of people. This promotes excellence among the student body, and also ethnic and racial diversity. One of the scarier aspects of funding an independent school education is that many schools do not consider an application for financial aid until the student is accepted and enrolled. Parents need to be clear with the admissions office what the procedure is, and what their obligations are.

Parochial and Catholic schools have several sources of funding, some parish based, some diocesan based. Catholic schools educate many non Catholics; anyone entering a Catholic school system will receive a Catholic education, including instruction in the religion. Check with the local school and diocese about scholarship opportunities. Often they are not restricted to church members, and are available on basis of need and aptitude. In some cases, you can apply for merit based scholarships along with the application for admission.

Need for financial aid in private schools is usually determined by filing the Parent’s Financial Statement, a form similar to the FAFSA used for colleges. Need is determined according to a standardized formula. Most schools use these as guidelines, and make the final determination for financial aid themselves.

A private school does not have to accept your child – many children are waitlisted or turned away simply because there is not enough room or the school is not the right one for your child after all. In your search for the best possible education, look for all opportunities. You may encounter rejection and disappointment, but when you find the school that does the best possible job of educating your child in partnership with you, it is all worthwhile!

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