The prospect of college may seem further away than it actually is, but where your student goes to high school is becoming an increasingly important consideration for parents in regards to college admission. While you may think that a fancy private school is the answer to instant college admission, this is not the case, and nor should college be your primary consideration at any stage. What is important is choosing an environment in which your child will excel and shine—right now.

While you might think private school is the best choice for your child, a public school could be the best choice for your wallet, right? Not necessarily. Private school can be an affordable option for your family. 

The First Steps 

Look for initiative from your child. Let’s be honest, most middle school students are more worried about how many Facebook friends they have than college. And who can blame them? An 8th grader can hardly be expected to know what they are looking for in a school. However, as a parent, keep an eye out for a persistent passion that your child may exhibit. If you think that a public school might not be able to foster that passion fully, it might be worthwhile to look into private schools. 

Talk to her about the decision she needs to make. Choosing a school is an important step, and ultimately, it should be a choice that your student is excited about. Private school will be a financial investment for you, and it is only worth it if your child is invested in her education as well.

Do some research. Think about your child’s qualities, and the qualities that you as a parent would value in his education. For example, if Bobby has always exhibited a love for science, consider a private school that is known for its biology program. The more research, the easier the decision. 

Many private schools offer the opportunity for kids to visit as a prospective student, shadowing a current student through classes. This step could be essential to your decision! It is a perfect way to see if a school is a good fit.

Almost every private school has a placement test that is necessary for admission. After narrowing down which private schools your child may be interested in, find out when their exam is scheduled for, and be sure to sign up.

Financial Options

While that initial tuition cost might be scary, don’t automatically assume that you cannot afford it. There are many options to make private school more affordable! Here are some popular options.

Payment Plans: Don’t think that you have to come up with the entire year's tuition all at once. Many private schools provide payment plans that can make it a lot easier on families. Most offer a two-part plan, and a month-to-month plan. Paying via scheduled installments could be a way to budget and save you a lot of stress.

Financial Aid: Every school is different, but almost all offer some form of financial aid for those who are eligible. Visit the school’s website for specific details about the application process. Call the admissions office and tell them a little bit about your situation. Remember that they want to help, and they have most likely encountered a situation similar to yours. Schools are generally clear about what your family can expect to receive. Some will even specify a maximum amount that could be available, (e.g., 50 percent of a year's tuition). Ask as many questions as you can!

Do you have another child in college? You may think that another tuition could be too much to handle. However, when applying for college aid, they will ask you if you are responsible another child’s tuition. So, whatever you are contributing for a private school will be reflected in your application for college aid, and there may be an adjustment in your financial reward to reflect this new expense. 

Scholarships: There are rewards specifically given to middle-school students. Look online and apply to any and all that your child may qualify for. Look here for a list of scholarships available to children under the age of 13:

Ask your child's guidance counselor for advice. Scholarship programs often send information to schools so they receive more applications. They may know about opportunities for your child. Also consider asking the private school’s financial aid office for advice. It is possible that they have had students in the past who have successfully applied for a scholarship.

The Waiting Game

When weighing options, think about the long-term benefits of the private school or program. More than likely, it will not be free. While there are many options to make it more affordable, it will still be something that your family needs to plan for. Think carefully about how this investment may affect your child for the better, and whether it is worth the financial planning.

Don’t miss an opportunity because you're worried about your wallet. Put effort into the application, and wait for a decision about financial aid. You never know what could happen, and your child can always enroll elsewhere. You’ll feel better knowing that you looked into every option.

Most important, be sure not to get your child’s hope up for a school that you might not be able to afford. It is best to be honest with your child about the situation. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. Your child will understand. She can only be mad at you if you make a promise to her that you cannot keep. ·


Cassidy Molina, the older sibling to a brother in private school, was the summer editorial intern for Raising Teens.