boarding school financial aid

Boarding schools, with their comprehensive educational environments and plethora of extracurricular offerings, often come with significant costs. For many families, affording such an education might seem out of reach. However, numerous boarding schools recognize the financial challenges families face and offer various forms of financial assistance. In this article, we’ll explore the availability and types of scholarships and financial aid for boarding high schools.

The Importance of Financial Aid

Before diving into specifics, it’s crucial to understand why financial aid is paramount. Offering financial assistance:

  1. Promotes Diversity: Financial aid allows schools to welcome students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, fostering a richer and more inclusive community.
  2. Upholds Meritocracy: Scholarships, especially those based on merit, ensure that talented students can access quality education irrespective of their financial situation.
  3. Broadens Access: Financial aid ensures that more students can benefit from the unique experiences and advantages that boarding schools offer.

Types of Financial Aid Available

  1. Need-Based Aid: This is the most common form of financial assistance. Schools assess a family’s financial situation, often using forms like the Parents’ Financial Statement (PFS), to determine the amount of aid awarded.

  2. Merit Scholarships: Some schools offer scholarships based on academic achievement, leadership qualities, or specific talents in areas like the arts or athletics. These scholarships might cover partial or full tuition.

  3. Endowed Scholarships: Alumni or donors sometimes set up these scholarships. They can be need-based, merit-based, or focused on students from particular backgrounds or regions.

  4. Sibling Discounts: If a family has more than one child attending the same school, some institutions offer a discount.

  5. Loan Programs: Some boarding schools partner with financial institutions to offer low-interest loan programs designed specifically for educational expenses.

How to Apply for Financial Aid

  1. Research Early: Before applying to a school, research their financial aid policies. This information is usually available on the school’s website.

  2. Fill Out Required Forms: Most schools require the PFS, which provides a detailed overview of a family’s financial situation. Some might have additional forms or documentation requirements.

  3. Apply On Time: Financial aid pools are limited. Ensure you meet all deadlines to increase your chances of receiving aid.

  4. Explore External Scholarships: Some organizations and foundations offer scholarships for students attending boarding schools. Research opportunities beyond what the school directly offers.

  5. Stay Updated: If your financial situation changes (e.g., job loss or medical expenses), inform the school’s financial aid office. They might re-evaluate your aid package.

Boarding high schools, while providing exceptional educational opportunities, can be financially daunting for many families. However, with a combination of scholarships, need-based aid, and other financial support mechanisms, these schools strive to make their transformative experiences accessible to as many students as possible. It’s essential for families to research, ask questions, and be proactive in their pursuit of financial aid to ensure they can avail of the best opportunities for their children.

Alternative Methods of Paying for Boarding School 

Paying for boarding school can be a significant financial challenge for many families. While scholarships and traditional financial aid are the most common methods to offset costs, there are several alternative ways to pay for or reduce the costs of boarding school. Here’s a rundown of some alternative strategies:

1. Payment Plans

Many schools offer monthly or quarterly payment plans that allow families to spread out tuition fees over the course of the year, making it more manageable than a lump sum payment.

2. Prepaid Tuition Plans

Some schools allow parents to prepay tuition at the current rate for future years. This can be advantageous if tuition rates are rising.

3. School Work Programs

Certain boarding schools have work-study programs where students can work in various capacities, from library assistants to dining hall servers, to earn money that goes towards their tuition.

4. Regional Discounts

Some boarding schools offer discounted tuition for local or in-state students.

5. Alumni Sponsorships

In certain instances, alumni set up funds to sponsor students, either based on merit or financial need. It’s worth checking with the school’s alumni association or development office.

6. External Scholarships

Beyond school-provided scholarships, numerous external organizations offer scholarships for academically gifted students, athletes, or those with particular talents in the arts. Websites like Fastweb or can be resources.

7. Employer Benefits

Some companies and organizations offer educational benefits as part of their compensation packages. Parents should check with their HR departments to see if such benefits are available and applicable to boarding school tuition.

8. Military or Government Programs

For families with members in the military or certain government sectors, there might be educational programs or grants available to help offset the costs of boarding schools.

9. Educational Loans

Some families opt to take out educational loans specifically designed for K-12 education. These differ from traditional student loans for higher education.

10. Tuition Insurance

While this doesn’t reduce the cost, tuition insurance can be beneficial if a student has to withdraw from school mid-year due to medical or other emergencies. It ensures families can get a refund for the portion of the year the student doesn’t attend.

11. Negotiation

In some instances, especially if there are extenuating financial circumstances or if the student brings a unique talent to the school (like exceptional athletic or artistic ability), families might be able to negotiate a reduced tuition rate or additional financial aid.

12. Barter Services

While less common, some schools might offer reduced tuition in exchange for services. For instance, a parent with skills in IT might assist the school with their computer systems in exchange for a tuition discount.

13. Tax-Deferred Savings

If college-level courses are taken in a boarding school, some of the costs can be covered by tax-deferred savings plans or state-based savings plans.  Check with your tax advisor.


While boarding school tuition can be daunting, a combination of traditional and alternative financing methods can make it more manageable for families. It’s essential to research, plan ahead, and communicate openly with the school’s financial aid office to explore all possible options.