The Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Financial Aid

Financial Aid FAQS.

Q: Who should apply for financial aid?

A: Schools encourage all families in need to apply for financial assistance. Families should first evaluate their resources, maximize their earnings, alter spending habits and carefully manage their assets before applying for financial aid. One way to help gauge your need: If, after adjusting your finances, you still can’t set aside 10 percent of the school’s tuition per month for 10 months, you might be a candidate for financial aid.


Q: Is there a cutoff income amount to qualify for financial aid?

A: No. Income is just one of many factors that are considered when calculating need. The School and Students Services by NAIS (SSS) uses a formula accepted nationally among independent schools to analyze need and the family’s ability to contribute to educational expenses. There is no preset income amount that qualifies a family for financial aid. Various factors are considered, including assets, debt, family size, the number of children attending tuition-charging schools or colleges, even the responsibilities of caring for an elderly family member. Still wondering whether it’s realistic to apply? It may be helpful to visit Enter your basic financial data and it will calculate an estimate of how much your family could be expected to contribute toward tuition. 


Q: Can my child apply for academic, athletic or musical scholarships?

A: While financial aid is based on demonstrated financial need, there are some schools that offer merit-based scholarships. Check with each school, as many scholarships are both merit- and need-based and will not be awarded to families who can afford the full tuition.


Q: What if my children are enrolled at different tuition-charging institutions?

A: In order to receive financial aid from one school, it is recommended that you apply for aid from all the schools your children attend. Other private-school tuitions you pay will then be factored into your financial-aid package.


Q: Will applying for financial aid affect my child’s prospects of admission?

A: No. Admission and financial-aid decisions are completely separate.


Q: How early should we file our tax returns?

A: As early as possible. According to the Internal Revenue Service, W-2s and 1099s should be received by Jan. 31. Financial-aid deadlines for new students are often in February, and copies of your completed tax returns are required.


Q: What if I miss the deadline to apply for financial aid?

A: Although it’s never too late to apply for financial aid, funds are limited and may not be available to those who apply late. To receive the maximum benefit, parents are encouraged to meet the application deadlines. Pay close attention, as financial-aid application deadlines for incoming and returning students differ.


Q. What are the common mistakes parents make?

A. Many don’t apply because they don’t think they qualify, or they don’t start their paperwork early enough. The process can be tedious and time-consuming. Turning all your paperwork in before the deadline also gives the financial aid office time to work with you if any documents are missing or to correct any mistakes.


Q: Will my child’s financial-aid award change from year to year? What if our income changes?

A: You must reapply for financial aid every year, as it is recalculated using current information. Financial-aid offices take into account any changes, both gains and losses, and adjust the previous year’s award accordingly. Generally, if there is little or no change in your family’s circumstances, you can expect the award to stay at about the same level. Significant changes should be explained either in writing or in person to the financial-aid office so that the school can offer aid that considers the whole picture. Also note that financial-aid awards may be affected by the total funds budgeted and the number of applicants. But don’t be alarmed. Schools are doing everything they can to try to accommodate families’ requests; in fact, even as schools are seeing increases in financial-aid applications, some schools have increased their financial-aid budgets.


Q: If the parents are divorced, do both of them still have to provide information?

A: Yes. Each biological parent must submit a separate financial-aid application. If either parent has remarried, most schools require the income of stepparents to be included.


Q: What if one parent is not legally responsible for supporting the child’s education?

A: A copy of the divorce decree verifying this arrangement needs to be submitted to the school. If a biological parent cannot be located, submit documentation from an official source, such as an attorney, family doctor, clergy, social worker or employer.


Q: Will we have to repay any financial aid we receive?

A: No. Financial aid is like a grant, not a loan, and need not be repaid.


Q: What are the main reasons financial aid is denied?

A: A family may have resources that disqualify them, or may have submitted too little information.


Q: Is there an appeals process?

A: Yes. To appeal a decision, you have to submit a written letter to the financial-aid committee explaining why it should reconsider. You might need to provide additional documents to support the appeal. If new or unknown circumstances are indicated on the family’s application, the school might be able to make adjustments to its offer.