The Wait List

I was told by the FA officer that our financial need was the reason for the waitlist. When I mentioned digging deeper to make more of a contribution (working more, decreasing retirement contribution and/or some access to 529 Plan funds) he said that would help his chance of getting off the waitlist if he matched an opening.

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It’s tough being the middle part of the barbell (not enough to comfortably afford, yet not truly poverty stricken enough to qualify for FA). As FP parents, we’ve had to cut back on retirement savings (the wisdom of this is debatable, but it’s our family’s choice), where and in what kind of housing we chose to live in, etc. I’m also grateful that my kids have found a community they call home, so we donate small amounts. For those on the WL, I’m sorry you are grappling with this, but as someone who has sacrificed and gives a little back, I would expect that the school would expect that of all FA recipients. If you choose to fund your IRA instead, which is understandably prudent, then there are repercussions and I would be upset to learn my schools had given out FA to families that choose to put their funds to their IRAs and wanted the school, and those that donate to the Annual Funds/FA Funds, to pick up the balance. Honestly, I see FA reserved for those kids who just cannot turn to their public school system to get a reasonably good education and at the level where they don’t even know what an IRA is, or haven’t the funds to even start one. Those families truly need FA. @ChoatieMom description of the lean 4 years their family went through is what is expected. Private school is a luxury and should be thought of as such.


Which city in Canada are you from? How are the public schools like in the city you are coming?

Like in eastern canada. Public schools, post secondary (high school is grade 12 except Quebec where it is grade 11 and then a two-year preuniversity).

We are in near Toronto (suburbs).

Public schools cost very little and quality university tuitiion is about $7k per year…which is a real blessing.

Private “pre-type” schools in Canada are as expensive as U.S ones WITH less FA availability.

“t’s tough being the middle part of the barbell (not enough to comfortably afford, yet not truly poverty stricken enough to qualify for FA“

Ouch! I get your point and totally agree about schools being careful where they give their money, but calling FA recipients poverty stricken is a bit harsh and I hope that if we send our kid (on large FA) that the other kids don’t think that way. If you look at the FA calculators on some school web sites they give details of income ranges and numbers of families in that range and average aid they receive. Most are nowhere near “poverty stricken”, but maybe to people who are full pay we are? This is my biggest concern in sending my kid, that there is discrimination or segregation between the haves and the have nots.

I definitely agree that college needs to be taken into consideration as well. Here in the U.S., we have a college savings instrument called a 529. Many parents start these when their children are born/very young. When our son was applying, the rules did not allow those funds to be used for secondary education. Per @MAschools post, I believe that is no longer the case. We knew we’d have to stop contributing to the 529 and did not figure that flow into our FA need amount but, of course, ALL current and future disposable income is considered available for paying for BS, including retirement contributions. Because we were in our late 50’s when our son was applying, a $$$$ hole in that portfolio gave us serious pause. Also, accepting FP without loans would take every single disposable cent from us. Both schools agreed that a no-loan scenario might be untenable, but no FA was forthcoming because the no-loan scenario was a choice.

This is absolutely true. BS is a luxury and every BS expects sacrificial contribution. Each family who cannot easily write those checks needs to decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to make BS happen for their child/ren, and sacrificing for BS is what those tiny violins are made for.

There is a ton of great discussion in the archives about paying for BS that covers a lot of ground between starting the application and ending up WL’d for FA. Though it’s too late for this round, I’ll post a few links for those considering BS next year:

Middle class family getting ready to pay in full


The full pay or wait list phone call

Applied for FA…but no FA, what to do?

Creative Ways to Pay

Financial equitability

Happy Ending Financial Aid stories

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What are some top private school in Toronto area? Like upper Canada college? Do you have to fill out any standardized system application (like sss in USA) for financial aid?

I think the college admission in Canada is based on the grades from grade 12 without any standardized test needed right.

Universities/college pricing are very affordable in Canada. They have some top schools like university of Waterloo and the Canadian Harvard (I.e McGill). Great value for the money.

All points very well taken, and I appreciate the perspective. I feel like I already live a pretty lean lifestyle, and certainly would not expect the majority to be paid by aid. I am very much willing to make additional sacrifices, but agree that the school websites are almost encouraging you to apply for aid when they show the breakdown of present families income levels and what they receive for aid. Of course, there are so many other factors involved. I think if I knew this outcome in advance I would have approached the financial aid application differently, and would have extended myself further financially from the start, rather than being waitlisted and now coming to the realization that the elimination of retirement contributions and tapping into the 529 Plan was going to be a necessity. It would have been better to show that intent from the start. It would have reflected better on our commitment level. It’s also hard to not know the amount of the financial divide. It certainly has been a learning experience and maybe the best piece of wisdom that I could share with a prospective family in the future would be the management of the financial aid piece of the puzzle. Thanks again for everyone’s thoughts.


I apologize because I think my post came across as judgmental or harsh. It definitely wasn’t directed towards you, just the presentation of financial aid to applicants (as you rightly point out). The cynical part of me knows the system is geared for schools to garner as many applications as possible, so as to seem “desirable”. What it actually produces is a system where families and students compete with each other (for what goal…the “best/most desirable” school?) to get a spot at a limited number of schools that can point to a number that shows - “oh, you can be one of the chosen ones to be part of this select group”. They are looking to pad that denominator to the greatest extent possible. The schools totally soften the picture of what to expect for FA because they don’t want to scare away any numbers that might pad that denominator, and who wouldn’t be shocked by the cost of these experiences. I’m sorry also for my rant…it’s adult beverage hour where I am and of course, my family is part of this system. I’ve just finished reading a book recommended by the college counseling office of one kid called “Who Gets in and Why?”. Part of the book talk about the applicant gaining control of the process by analyzing the whole ecosystem. Optimistically, the book also noted that kids these days are a lot more savvy than parents are bc they have the tools of the internet and social media and have so many more benchmarks to compare schools than we did when we were younger. I truly hope your child gets off the WL at the school they want to go to as BS can be a positive, life changing experience and as parents, we all only want the best for them.

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@AnonMomof2 - I have said this before here, this is my kid’s take on the issue of how wealth plays out:

20% of the kids are super wealthy and show it, and they cluster together. 20% of the kids want to hang out with them. Everyone else is normal.

Truth is, more than 20% are wealthy, but many of those wealthy kids are super nice and down to earth, and you would never know it. Same with their parents.

There are some great equalizers in boarding school, as opposed to day school. Everyone sleeps in the same dorms. Eats the same food. No one drives. Follows the same schedule. There is nothing to spend money on.

The thing that sets kids apart can be clothes and eating off campus/delivery. And what they post on Instagram about their fabulous vacations.

Not saying that there aren’t divisions- probably at some schools more than others. But there are plenty of normal kids.


No apology needed! I truly value the wisdom of those who have been through this. This forum has allowed me to examine things from different perspectives. I only wish that I had come across it sooner. Definitely not harsh, and I wish I could join you in your adult beverage hour!


Many also issue computers to the entire class - another equalizer.

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Wish I knew which MA schools he applied to because I may be able to offer some insight. Some coaches likely overshot this year. Either they failed to realize that they had less clout than usual (because of the #'s) or they felt they had nothing to lose by encouraging an applicant who may or may not be accepted - hard to know which happened to you. In my case, my son was recruited to go from one private school to another. It was exciting to consider the change, and fun to be wanted - but my gut said odds of admissions were 50/50 at best - so we decided not to take the coach up on the opportunity.

Regarding financial aid, boarding schools tend to be somewhat better with aid than day. A reliable source shared with me that once household income exceeds $150k, the odds of receiving aid go way down. Once income reaches $200k, financial aid is rarely offered. Not sure of your situation, but want you to have those data points. Finally, I think if income is greater and you ask for aid, it reduces admissions odds. Lots of people are stretching for private school so many believe you should as well.

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@MAschools , it sounds like you are right to sit tight, hard as it is. If you end up having to go back to the drawing board and reapply next year, you may have more flexibility since it’ll be for 3 years. Definitely not what you had planned but perhaps a workable plan b.


About 150k and 200k, are these thresholds for boarding or day schools?

Yes. Canadian universities don’t require admissions tests for domestic applications unless you are applying directly into a graduate program like Law.

For FA, the schools go through a service called Applefinancial. What parents hate about it is lack of transparency. The sss in USA, you actually can see the expected contribution level. Applefinancial gives an analysis to the school AND they look at your assets and debt load and expect you to take on debt to pay as apposed to just income levels. In Canada there is far less FA and sadly most of it goes to athletes.

The great thing in Canada is that the major cities all have terrific universities and if you apply within your province, your cost will be under $20K even if boarding.

Upper Canada College is the most famous prep in Toronto. Tuition for boarders is about $65K plus Cdn. It is a city with a lot of wealth so you can imagine how competitive it is.

Thanks for your thoughts. There were a number of boys who were strung along and ended up very disappointed. My son also at another private school, and agree that it definitely felt good to be wanted. Interesting about the numbers. Happy to communicate privately re names of schools but don’t feel like it would be helpful to post publicly.

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Actually not all financial aid system in USA tells you the EC, there are some schools (at least for day schools) that don’t use SSS and they also don’t give you the EC.

Those numbers get kicked around at both boarding and day. That does not mean they are 100% factual though, more directionally correct. Boarding schools are more expensive and often have more money to distribute.

sure, maybe same schools - lol