Back to all blogs

The Value of Offering a Financial Aid Consultation Call

September 11, 2023
Priscilla Lund
Director of Enrolment Management & Financial Aid

For most parents, especially those new to independent schools, applying for financial aid is a cumbersome and humbling process. At St. Andrew’s, we see it as an intentional opportunity to build community through our Consultation Call process. How many prospective parents find the financial aid process so daunting they give up and we never hear from them? While we’ll never know, even one family missed is too many. In order to attempt to demystify the financial aid process I began conducting Financial Aid Consultation Calls a few years ago. These Consultation Calls supplement and work in tandem with a yearly financial aid webinar and information provided on our website.

I begin the Financial Aid Consultation Call by providing a quick overview of our school mission and why bridging the affordability gap for families is crucial to our mission and educational community. I strategically share data that helps parents picture themselves at St. Andrew’s. I share the total number of students on aid, including new students, as well as the average award amount.

In addition, I explain that awards are need-based and that they don’t need to be paid back (it is a common misconception to equate independent school financial aid to collegiate financial aid which are often loans that need to be paid back). I outline monthly payment plan options and supplemental benefits included in the financial aid package, which, at our school, includes breakfast, snack, and lunch, inter-campus shuttle bus, textbooks and supplies. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I ensure confidentiality and explain that admissions and financial aid committees function separately. Even though our website and brochures stress confidentiality, hearing these details from a staff member builds trust with parents.

After establishing how our Financial Aid Program functions, I provide an estimated award if the family is open to sharing some basic financial information. My standard questions include household size and number of kids in tuition schools (includes preschool/college); annual gross income (AGI); monthly rent or mortgage payment; major assets (cash $10K or above, a second home, etc.); large outstanding debts (i.e., credit card above $10K, medical expenses, college loans, etc.). These items give me a general sense of a family’s financial profile. Then, I reference currently enrolled data to provide an award range using AGI as the main data point. Generally, I have three standard guidelines: The family qualifies for aid; the family profile is borderline (i.e. hard to discern from the data); or the family income range is too high to qualify for a need-based award. The majority of parents that I speak to tend to qualify for a need-based financial aid award. I often sense a sigh of relief when the parents receive confirmation about qualifying and the possible award amount. I always clarify that the amount is only an estimate and that they must complete the financial aid application (with Clarity a 30-minute process, which is a big win!). Lastly, I offer to waive the application fee, which encourages them to apply.

What I like most about these calls is that while I have a structure and plan, there is always an organic nature to our conversation. I am often surprised by how much I learn about how parents approach their finances, from the very frugal to extravagant, and I take careful notes that I reference during Financial Aid Committee deliberations.

In general, I conduct 10 to 20 financial aid consultation calls per year. I have found that these conversations provide prospective parents with a better understanding of what a financial aid application entails, confirm (or not) their eligibility for a need-based award, and assure them of the confidential nature of the process. For me, the added bonus is that I have begun the important work of building a relationship with a potential new family. In the end, these 15 to 20 minute calls are a win for both the family and for the school.

If you’d like to learn more or have questions, please contact me.

Priscilla A. Lund

Director of Enrollment Management & Financial Aid (K to 12)

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Austin, TX 78757

Join 700+ schools that have chosen Clarity

The financial aid platform purpose built to remove enrollment barriers for today's families.

Make an Inquiry