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Awarding Athletic Scholarship For Private School: Is It Wrong?

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Every spring around this time, MomsTeam receives e-mails from parents asking for advice on how they can help their athletically gifted child get into and afford to pay for a private or parochial school with a top-flight athletic program.  The one I recently received was a bit different: a dad who was wondering whether I knew any schools who awarded financial aid based, not on need, but on athletic talent. 

Before I responded, I talked with Jeff Maidment, the Athletic Director at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, who was the AD at the private school one of my sons attended back in the early 2000s.  I consider him to be one of the best athletic directors in the nation, in part because of the respect he has earned from the entire sports community at his schools, not just athletes, but coaches, and parents. 

Here's the e-mail I received from the parent, my exchange of emails with Jeff, and my response to the parent.  If you are a parent who considering private or parochial school for your child because of its athletic program, I hope you will find the email exchange helpful.  If you have advice for other parents that you would like to share, I hope you will feel free to post a comment.

From: Tiger's Dad

To: Brooke de Lench

Hi Brooke:

Just to provide the context, I talked to you after your FBU Top Gun lecture last summer. I explained that my son was a straight-A student, besides being a quarterback, and I was trying to find a private school that offers scholarships that are not needs based. You said to give you a call.

I've heard of athletic scholarships at some of these schools that claim to be only needs based. I've also heard that some of these schools look for a quarterback when they need one. Maybe you know how to approach this.

My situation is that I have a healthy salary, but I'm still finishing up the significant funding to send two kids to college. I went through the financial aid process for needs based assistance at one area private school, but they would not provide any aid, although they did want Tiger* to attend.

Tiger's Dad

From: Brooke de Lench

To: Jeff Maidment

Hi Jeff,

Hope you are well. I see you on twitter so I feel somewhat connected-kinda fun.

I got this email from a dad of a really good QB and am curious if you have any thoughts on what he can do? He came up to me after a talk I gave in Virginia last summer and I want to see if I can help him.


From: Jeff Maidment

To: Brooke de Lench

Hi Brooke,

It has been fun following MomsTeam on Twitter. I love the articles and ability to RT to my followers, very informative.

To answer the question about merit aid for athletes. I can say with certainty that no reputable independent school will give aid to a family who has the means to pay.  Financial Aid based on need is what allows independent schools to diversify their student body.  Merit Aid only allows schools to enhance one aspect of the school, or maybe if the school is financially sound a few areas of the school.

I worked for a school in Virginia which went into bankruptcy as a result of awarding merit aid to basketball players back in the 1980's. There are schools in this country that give merit aid, but they will not be found on the National Association of Independent Schools website.

I hope this helps the father in search of merit aid. I don't have any advice for him, other than "if an independent school education is important, then find the way to pay for it."

Looking forward to seeing you again soon.


From: Brooke de Lench

To: Tiger's Dad

Hi TD,

So, here is what I know. Students for most private (non parochial) schools have been selected for the fall by about the second week in March. Process is long and arduous with many "touch points."  One of my sons went through the process with three private schools. He was accepted at all three, and we asked for help, too. They all offered a very little amount. They really are looking to the neediest of kids.

XXX school may be an option for late comers who are great athletes and need financial aid. You don't mention your son's age but if he is in 8th grade you have missed the admissions window, so why not start for grade 10 entry? Then it is all about "touch-points": setting a time to visit the school this summer, getting in early on the admissions meetings, attending games (making sure to say hello to the admissions folks), going to all open-houses.  In other words, show focused interest and you may have a good shot.

As for merit aid, here's an email I got from an AD at a private school.


Is this the answer Tiger's dad was looking for? Probably not, although I would like to think that, like other parents, he was looking for the best school for his son. He clearly was caught in no-man's land: neither wealthy enough to afford to a private school education for his son, but with too much income to qualify for financial aid based on need. 

Have you as a parent faced this situation and, if so, what did you do? Are there schools out there that award merit-based financial aid in order to recruit top athletes?  I would love to hear from you, either in the comments section below or via post on our Facebook page.