Many have asked us or have wondered, how (when it is so obvious that we are poor) can we afford to send our kids to private school? And the truth is, we can’t. The only money that we have spent on our children’s schooling has been on Pre-School.
So how can our kids attend private schools? The answer is that each year we apply for scholarships through local School Tuition Organizations (STOs), and, thus far, each year we have received enough in scholarships (and some donations from friends and family) to cover the full cost.
So how does it work?
STOs are organizations that collect donations from individuals, corporations, and other entities and then redistribute that money to families in need. There are many STOs and several different kinds of scholarships that you can apply for, including Individual, Corporate, Switcher, and Disable/Displaced. Qualifications for each one might be a little different, so look carefully at each STO and each kind of scholarship opportunity.
Applying is a little daunting at first, but once you have collected all the information STOs ask for you can reuse it, so each application gets a little easier. And, applying next year will be far easier because you will know what they are looking for.
Right off the bat I would encourage you to start a file of PDFs that you can upload or e-mail for applications. This has made our lives so much easier! It takes a while to collect everything you need, but many of these files can be reused or edited for the next year. Applying our second year was 10 times easier than it was the first year.
If you are feeling discouraged, please keep in mind that in one year we raised about 35,000 dollars and the year before that almost 15,000. That is a lot of money! It’s worth it if you can push through the initial pain of getting all of the information together to apply.
Here are some of the main things that you will be asked for:
- The first two pages of your tax return. I would print them out, black out your social security numbers, and then scan them back in so that they are “secure”.
- You will need access to your gross income, including all forms of income (social security, SSI, etc.). Be thorough and honest.
- Collect 3 or more Recommendation Letters for each child. Good candidates for recommendation letters are: teachers, pastors or other clergy, family members, family friends, etc.
- A brief description of why you want to pursue private education for your child(ren). Here is a sample for reference.
- A brief description of your financial situation and why you are applying for assistance. This is your chance to prove that you need it, so do not to be ashamed to be totally honest! Again, here is a sample for reference.
- A brief description of who the kids are and what they are into. This is an old one that I used. Include clubs, sports, etc. And not just what they do, but what they would like to do. Some organizations can provide little stipends for that kind of stuff.
- PDFs of birth certificates.
- PDFs of an IEP and/or MET (If they have one–these are for Special Ed).
- Acceptance letters from the schools you are applying to.
- The tuition amount for the schools you are applying to.
Each STO may ask for things a little differently so there may be other things you’ll need also, but this is a great start. Most of the applications are online, so that is why it’s good to have all of these documents in a format that can be e-mailed or uploaded. If you don’t have a printer/scanner, use a friend’s or consider investing in one. Being able to print and scan will be an important part of applying for scholarships.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions about how to make this a more useful resource.