Quick Tips on Applying for Financial Aid by Sandy Eiges, LA School Scout

LA School ScoutHere’s an informative primer on what’s required to apply for private school financial aid by our good friend, Sandy Eiges of L.A. School Scout, an L.A. area educational consulting company. To see our interview with Sandy, click here. 


We’ve come to that part of the private school admissions cycle where everything is coming due at the same time – teacher recommendations, head of school recommendations, transcripts, and for those of you applying for financial aid, tax returns.
For those of you wondering whether you qualify for financial aid, wonder no longer. The answer is – maybe!


The truth is that every school has a different amount of financial aid available in any given year. Coupled with a different income ceiling per school, this makes it challenging to determine whether you qualify or not. Some schools focus on ethnic diversity in their financial aid calculations; some expand that to include socio-economic diversity as well. If a large school commits a sizeable percentage of their annual income to financial aid, then clearly they will have deeper pockets and will have more aid available than a smaller school might.


Applying for financial aid is a very challenging process. While I’ve covered this before, I’m reviewing the steps here. For some schools it’s not too late to submit a financial aid application. For all schools there is one part of the application due by February 1st – your tax returns.


Here are some guidelines you’ll need to know when applying for financial aid:


1. Have your economic house in some kind of order.
 Once you apply to a school they will ask if you are applying for financial aid. If you are, they will send you specific instructions. While the application isn’t due until February, and you can complete most of the application online, you will have to add supplemental materials. You will need copies of previous years’ tax returns – for some schools it’s one year, for others it’s two. The tax return for the current year will need to be completed and submitted in January, just to meet the deadline.

You will need to itemize every expense and all of your income. If you are divorced, both parents’ incomes are used in the calculation, whether or not both parents are contributing to tuition – or even on speaking terms!  
Be aware that many schools have two aid applications – one you access online, and one that belongs specifically to a particular school. You will need to complete them both.


2. Expect to pay some tuitionVery few schools offer full financial aid these days. The more typical scenario is that if you qualify, the school will offer up to 2/3 of the payment. That means that you should expect to pay at least a third of the tuition. At the average L.A. private elementary school, tuition ranges from $18,000 – $25,000 per year. For middle and high school, it can go as high as $35,000 – $40,000 per year. You do the math!


3. Financial Aid applications are online.There are two main sites that process financial aid applications – the National Association of Independent Schools School & Student Services application (NAIS/SSS): http://sssbynais.org. “We estimate the amount you can contribute to school expenses and forward that estimate to the schools where you’re applying. It’s one form, for one fee, for any number of siblings, for any number of schools.” and FAST (the schools you are applying to will forward the link to their application).
To repeat, once you enter your information they will estimate what they think you can afford. You will also be asked what you can afford. This isn’t the amount of aid you will necessarily receive, but it’s always a good idea to ask for what you need.

Whether you use the FAST form or the SSS form, you will only have to submit one set of materials to each, which will be used for all the schools you specify. Both sites make it easy to upload supplementary materials, such as tax returns. Unfortunately if some of your schools use one form and some the other, you will have to fill out two separate forms.

Just as with school applications, it might be easy to press “submit” – but don’t submit until you’ve checked and double-checked the accuracy of your answers, and especially of your numbers. And of course you should always keep a copy.


4. Watch the deadline! While you might be tempted to wait until your child is admitted to a school before submitting an application for financial aid, applications are due prior to admission. If you applied and got in, but only now realize that you really need financial aid, you can always ask – but it is highly unlikely that there will be any aid left. Aid normally goes first to faculty and staff for their children, then to current students at the school, and then to new acceptances. If you apply late, you risk losing any access to financial aid. 

For the most part complete financial aid applications, including current year tax returns, are due by February 1st. If you can get the application done early, then by all means take care of it. Then if all you need to do is upload one tax form on the due date, so much the better.



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LA School Scout’s Private School Admissions FAQ

LA School Scout


My friend and colleague, Sandy Eiges of LA School Scout has a great new FAQ about private schools on her blog!


Click on LA School Scout and you’ll see a yellow box at the top of the site with the FAQ. You can listen to audio of FAQ or read the short text answers. Definitely worth checking out since it has lots of helpful information! You can see my previous blog interview with Sandy here.



Finding The “Best” School by Sandy Eiges, LA School Scout

Centro Infantil Municipal in El Chaparral, Granada, Spain. Photo: Timbuktu Magazine
Kindergarten. Centro Infantil Municipal in El Chaparral, Granada, Spain. Photo: Timbuktu Magazine

I know, we’ve talked about this before, and I am constantly being asked which school I consider to be “the best.” It can be frustrating for parents to figure out what is “the best” school for their child, be it preschool, elementary, middle or high – or even college. But the reality is that there is no unilateral “best.” Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.


For those of you who need a definitive answer (all of us!) I know this can be maddening. For those of you who have high-performing children, who would tear their hair out with boredom if in an undemanding environment where the norm falls far below their abilities and there is little or no differentiation for high ability kids, well, your path is clear. Your child will be happy in an academically demanding, highly structured environment.


If you are not that parent, but you have that child, well, good luck there. Not every school is a perfect fit for the whole family. If you go with your preference, your high ability kid may start acting out in ways that make it look like they are struggling. They are struggling – and might need a classroom where that same energy is being used to master more demanding material. Their brains are hungry for that finely ordered style of learning.


There are some less structured, more child-driven educational environments that have the same level of high expectations as the more structured classroom – but you might not see them that way. What they’re doing in the classroom is hands-on, no one is memorizing a thing, parents seem to love the school but you have no idea what your child is actually doing day-to-day – this might be a fit for your child but it might not be a school for you.


Whatever your choice is in schools, you really do need to “drink the Kool-Aid”™ or the whole experience will not be a match for you.


If you have a task-driven child, it goes without saying that you want to give them those tasks. If you have a deep or original thinker, or a “creative kid,” the mundane tasks of learning – repetition, memorization, detail – may hold no interest whatsoever. If they are in a school environment that is less structured, they might thrive. For some, though, they will need to “do the detail” in order to keep their lofty ideas grounded. Figuring out what might be the right match is not as easy as it seems.


So that notion of “best”? It’s really a moving target, based on too many inconsistent factors.


The key here is to make sure that you’re offering your child the school that fits who they are, not just who you are. Sometimes that’s an easy guess; sometimes not. Take a look at the variety of schools out there, and make your best choice. That’s all that any parent can do.


If you need help with any part of this process, that’s why I’m here. Trying to decide between “progressive” and “traditional”? Considering a move from public to private? Are you concerned that your child might have some learning issues which did not surface until they started school? We can help you with all of your school-related questions.


Sandy Eiges is the founder of LA School Scout, one of LA’s premier educational consulting firms.

Sandy Eiges
Sandy Eiges, M.S.W.
L.A. School Scout

What Is Kindergarten Readiness? By Sandy Eiges, L.A. School Scout

Editor’s Note: As we mentioned on Beyond The Brochure’s Facebook Page, our thoughts, prayers and best wishes are with the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and their families. 


LA School Scout Logo

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that not all applicants who apply to private schools get in to private schools. Some of you have been stunned to learn that your child was deemed “not quite ready,” or “not qualified” for a particular school.


Now this isn’t New York, where all children applying to private schools must take an IQ test, and all children applying to some of the better public schools must do the same.There is no entrance exam for public school in L.A.; there is no uniform Kindergarten readiness assessment used by all of the L.A. private schools.


But there is concern as to whether a child is truly ready. In recent years the concept of “kindergarten readiness” has been a rallying cry – for teachers coping with increasingly demanding academic standards when there are 4 ½ year olds in the classrooms; to parents who feel like their child is ready and eager to learn, no matter the chronological age; to state departments of education, trying to determine how many children can comfortably fit into the norm, by age.


It is part of the accepted canon that “school readiness” means having the ability to learn and cope with the school environment without undue stress – and that a child’s intelligence plays only a minor role in his or her ability to cope with the school day.


Different schools use different criteria for kindergarten readiness. In most cases, children must be around 5 years old in order to begin, but age alone, just like IQ alone, is not indicative of whether a child can handle what is in most cases an increasingly academically rigorous curriculum. In addition to academics, children must be ready for school physically, socially and emotionally. Language, fine and gross motor skills, and the ability to self-regulate will support their success in school.


These days many children start school at closer to six years old. But there are parents out there who think that their child is ready at four or five – and some are. That said, there is no one-size-fits-all in Kindergarten. But there are some basic skills and abilities your child should have in order to increase the likelihood that your child will have a successful Kindergarten experience. And some of those skills and abilities are the result of the individual child’s development.


If you need the peace of mind that your child is on track and developmentally ready for an academically rigorous Kindergarten, or that your child could use an extra year of preschool to solidify his or her social-emotional development, we are now scheduling Kindergarten readiness assessments from May through August. Please contact sandy@LAschoolscout.com for details.


Until next time,
Sandy Eiges
Sandy Eiges, M.S.W.
L.A. School Scout