Funding a Private School Education

private schoolMy husband and I are new to the private school sector and are financial contributors to the cause…aka our son goes to a private school and we pay for it! Ouch. It’s expensive, but totally worth it for us! I’ll share on another post our decision to send our son to private school, I mean, I’ve already typed that up in a recent scholarship application! Yes, in case you don’t know, there are scholarships available for private schools, k-12! It’s kind of funny actually, eleven years ago I was a senior in high school applying for college and scholarships and now, I suddenly find myself doing the same thing for my son, except he was five when we started and his application was for kindergarten! Thankfully, he got accepted. 🙂 I need to frame that acceptance letter…at least save it and display it somewhere next to his college letter! It’s adorable, really.

Anyway, my son will continue attending the same school for 1st grade in the Fall, so I’ve been applying for scholarships! When you are new to the whole private school thing, it’s pretty intimidating!  I mean, monthly payments added to the new routine of dro
pping off and picking up ON TIME, plus homework AND parenting, it’s tough! But, with time, it gets easier, or at least, you learn to survive and eventually, it becomes part of the routine.

This Spring, a wave of new scholarships became available for the new 2014-2015 school year. I was prepared with a list of scholarship organizations I wanted to apply to and dates scheduled in my calendar when the applications would be available. I attended a financial workshop at my son’s school last year where I was provided with a list of organizations that help fund private education; the school is very helpful and supportive in regards to informing parents about financial aid opportunities. I am grateful for that!

Although it is time consuming and repetitive, I am motivated to apply to scholarship programs because my efforts paid off for us this year! Literally, my efforts paid off 3 months of tuition! I applied to three scholarships in September last year and completely forgot about them until last month when I received an e-mail from my son’s school showing the scholarship we were awarded! I literally stumbled out of bed to go tell my husband about the big news! That is a huge help for us!

Recently, I have applied to about 5 different scholarship programs, plus even mustered the courage to ASK for donations for my son. If you know me, you know how hard that is for me, but I did it, and got two donations from two wonderful people with great hearts! I am so grateful for them. It wasn’t entirely bad, I mean they get their money back when they do their taxes, so it’s a win-win.

If you have decided to send your child to private school and are new to applying for scholarships here is some advice for you:

1. Meet with the Director of Admissions/Finance Director at the School. Most likely, they have presentations and handouts to give out to parents like you. Get to know them and ask for their advice, they are there to help you. Remember, it is to their benefit too that your child attends school there. Let them help you.

2. Attend At Least One Financial Workshop Provided By the School. When I attended the workshop, they not only had an entire power point presentation on “how to afford a private education” and handouts, but they also had parents provide their personal testimonials on the financial assistance they were provided and the impact it made on their families. It was encouraging.

3. Make Time to Learn About Scholarship Requirements and Deadlines. Commit the time to actually sit down and learn about the scholarship organizations and their requirements. For most of them,  you will need your household income and a completed application including family size information. Letters of recommendation, a narrative of your child’s personality and extracurricular activities are optional,  but a plus! The scholarships have deadlines, so make sure you are aware of the ideal times to apply. April-May are ideal for the new school year beginning in the Fall. Some scholarship organizations disburse funds up to 3 times a year, so if you miss the spring deadline, you may still have a chance. It worked for me when I applied in September and was awarded funds in March!

4.  Apply! The good thing about the scholarship applications is that they are very similar. The information you use for one may be required for another. Once you have the income information and additional documentation, it’s just a matter of filling in the general information and uploading the information you have onto the new application. What probably takes the most time is gathering the information, but once you have it, you can complete an entire application in about fifteen minutes! I applied to the scholarships during my lunch break at work!

5. Don’t Get Discouraged, Stay PositiveThere Are Other Alternatives. Last year, I applied to three different scholarships and was awarded with one. My suggestion is to apply to more than one, you’ll have a higher chance in receiving a scholarship. Also, don’t let your income deter you from applying. You’d be surprised how high the income guidelines are. If you are not awarded with a scholarship, there are other ways to get your child’s education funded. Ask for donations. It’s hard and uncomfortable, but when you think about it as a win-win situation, it’s easier to ask. Arizona has a tax law that awards a dollar for dollar tax credit for those donating. There are guidelines to the amount that will be met, so I suggest you learn if your state offers it and what the rules are.  I asked two of my single coworkers to donate. They were going to owe the state money anyway, so I asked if they would donate to my son and know where their money was going to be applied. They agreed. The great advantage to asking for donations is that they are able to donate up until Tax Day for last year’s taxes. They pretty much get their money right away!

Here is a list of the scholarships I recently applied to: 

1. Arizona Tuition Organization (AZTO)–This organization awarded us our first scholarship!
2. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO)
3. Arizona Community Foundation School Tuition Organization (ACF)
4. Institute for Better Education (IBE)
5. School Choice Arizona

Let me encourage you to apply for a scholarship. Don’t be overcome by the requirements, break them into small tasks and you will see results. To  be honest, I actually enjoyed the experience even before my family was awarded with a scholarship! I have a letter of recommendation from my son’s preschool teacher and a narrative I wrote about his character  that I will treasure forever. If it wasn’t for the scholarship opportunities, I wouldn’t have these precious documents that show how wonderful my son is.  And, I look forward to sharing these with him one day. 

So don’t make any excuses! Just do it! Your budget will thank you, and maybe your spouse too. 🙂 

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