College prep schools, with their strong focus on independent learning, high student expectations, and helping students form rigorous study habits, are a great choice for any student that plans to go to college. Most low-income families, however, don't consider them — they feel that private schools are out of their reach.
Thankfully, the existence of financial aid packages, including grants and loans, offered by college prep schools makes it entirely possible for students from low-income families to attend them. If you're a low-income family who is interested in setting your child up for success by sending them to a prep school, here's how to make the process easier.
Understand Financial Aid and How it Affects Admissions
Most college prep schools offer financial assistance to low-income families, and this financial aid can be in the form of grants (paid for by the school's endowment fund) or in loans from student loan providers. The amount of aid a family receives is determined by the amount of income the parents make along with their expenses — it's essentially a measure of how much the parents can comfortably pay for tuition. Because of this, it's often possible for even very low-income families to send their children to college prep schools.
However, there is one thing you need to keep in mind if you're planning on using financial aid to pay for prep school. Some college prep schools are "need-blind," whereas most are "need-aware." The schools that are need-aware will take a family's financial assistance package into account when determining whether or not they accept a student. Admissions requirements become more stringent when a student requires a substantial amount of financial aid.
Help Your Child Create an Amazing College Prep Application
Because of the fact that many college prep schools are need-aware, it's important for you to bolster your child's application as much as possible. Applying to a college prep high school is very similar to applying to college, so this actually gives your child a chance to have a head-start on understanding how the process works.
Grades are important in the admissions process, but so are extracurricular activities. Encourage your child to do volunteer work, participate in after-school clubs, and play sports. Your child should ideally take the most advanced math course that his or her middle school offers (typically algebra) and maintain excellent grades.
With a strong application, you'll be able to apply to numerous college prep high schools. For the ones that are need-aware, you'll also need to submit financial information so that they can determine how much financial aid you'll need for your child to attend. Applying to several schools gives you the best options, and it also allows you to see how college prep schools vary in the amount of financial aid they offer — you may be able to find one that offers you mostly grants in their financial aid package, which makes the education nearly free.
Consider Religious Schools During the Application Process
Finally, it's also a good idea to look at religious college prep high schools and consider applying there. Religious schools often have extra sources of funding available from their denomination, which allows them to offer more generous financial aid packages to potential students.
With the availability of financial aid packages, it's possible for almost every family to send their child to a college prep high school. Ensure that your child participates in numerous extracurricular activities, earns great grades in order to make his or her application stand out from the rest, and then start applying to schools that seem like a great fit for your child.