Most area independent schools use the Princeton, NJ School Scholarship Service (SSS), so if you're applying to multiple schools you only have to fill out one form.
This service ensures that, " the basis of analysis is consistent for all familiesfair, equitable, objective, and grounded in sound economic theory," and it keeps "control with the school." (According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).)
The cornerstone of the SSS is the Parents' Financial Aid Statement (PFS). The SSS uses this statement to determine your ability to finance your child's education.
The PFS is completely confidential. Requested information includes:
- Family size
- All income sources
- Assets, including investments, savings, and children's assets
- Unusual expenses, such as medical costs
- Most schools also ask for your most recent federal tax return to ensure the accuracy of the above statistics
Be aware that certain schools have scholarships, grants, or loans that may be available if you ask.
When the Ball's in their Court
Once you've sent your application to the SSS, the results are mailed to the school in a few weeks.
Your PFS results and supplementary documents such as your most recent tax returns and personal correspondences determine your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC.)
A child's previous attendance or lack thereof has no affect on the aid she receives, says Anne Turnbull, Financial Aid Director at St. Christopher's School. "It's all on the basis of financial need. That's the only criteria" at her school.
Your financial aid and need eligibility is determined by subtracting your EFC from the school's cost of attendance. Schools may not be able to meet your financial need, but their tuition loans and payment plans could provide an alternative to financial aid.
Schools' loan and payment policies vary, so call to find out what programs are available at specific schools. Most schools are eager to help you find a way for your child to attend. "We work with families on an individual basis," says Turnbull.
Don't let your doubts stop you from applying for financial aid: "You should absolutely apply even if you don't think you'll qualify many people assume they can't attend an independent school when frankly they [could have] if they had applied for financial aid," says Surgner. Declan Gould
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