Applying for Private School Financial Aid

Financial aid and other forms of tuition assistance help make private school education a reality for any student. While this page will arm you with the knowledge to begin the financial aid process, carefully review each school’s policies as timelines, requirements, and forms of assistance vary.

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3 Things to Know Before You Begin

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Don’t make assumptions about financial aid awards.

There are a variety of financial aid and tuition assistance options available to families (see the list below), and each school handles them differently. Until you’ve gone through the process, don’t assume that you make too much, or that an inadequate award from one school means another won’t meet your family’s financial needs.

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Apply for financial aid as soon as possible!

Don’t wait on admission decisions before applying for financial aid. Double-check each school’s deadline, but in general, submit aid applications in the same timeframe as admission applications—especially with rolling admissions schools where aid is often awarded first-come, first-served. You’ll also need to file taxes and prepare documentation ASAP.

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Determine the full cost of attendance.

Beware that the tuition cost listed on private school websites might not represent the full financial obligation of attendance. Schools commonly have additional fees for uniforms, books, meal plans, transportation, after-school care, etc. For example, tuition listed at $40,000 may ultimately cost $43,000 after calculating all fees.

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Let's Talk About Financial Aid

There's a lot more to learn about financial aid! Listen to our conversation with private school financial aid guru Kristen Carey Power for the full scoop.

Types of Financial Aid & Tuition Assistance

When it comes to making private school education affordable, there are different ways to slice the pie. A combination of the following options may be the right answer for your family.

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Financial Aid Awards

These grants are awarded to students based on need and the school’s overall financial aid budget. They are not loans and thus don’t require repayment. Financial aid awards are always made independent of admission decisions, but the application timelines are similar so families have everything needed to make enrollment choices.


Often referred to as merit aid, scholarships are available at many schools to deserving students for academic, athletic, or community achievements. Unlike financial aid, a family’s financial need typically isn’t factored into scholarship awards.

Education Loans

Parents can apply for education loans for their children where the funds are disbursed directly to the school.

Tuition Payment Plans

Private schools typically offer tuition payment plans enabling families to spread out payments into monthly installments; however, you may incur additional fees with this option.

529 Plan

529 Plans are tax-advantaged investment accounts to save for educational expenses. Traditionally intended for college tuition, recent tax reforms enable families to disperse up to $10,000 from 529 accounts to pay for private school tuition. Please note: Regulations vary by state, so it's crucial to check with your accountant before pursuing this option.

Applying for Financial Aid

Financial Aid Timeline

The following represents a general outline of the financial aid process for schools with fixed deadlines. Please check with the schools your family is applying to for their specific deadlines.

  • October 1: Schools begin accepting financial aid applications
  • December 15 – January 31: Applications are typically due within this range
  • January 1: File income taxes asap for submission with the aid application
  • February 1 – March 31: Award notifications are typically made within this range, coinciding with admission decisions

Required Documentation

Private schools typically request the following documentation from families applying for financial aid.

  • The school’s preferred online financial aid application
  • Taxes: 1040’s with all schedules, 1099, K-1 (Form 1065), S corporation, etc.
  • Bank statements: all savings and checking accounts
  • Mortgage/rent information
  • Investment information: 529, 401(k), 403(b)
  • Unusual expenses such as funeral costs or flooding repairs
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