How much should I specify as our family contribution? And what if we don’t receive a scholarship award? Can we still enroll?

For families that are considering applying for a scholarship “just to see what kind of award we get” we suggest the following: ask yourself what is your total budget for summer/educational enrichment. If you don’t know this number, you should figure it out before doing anything else. If you don’t currently have a budget for educational expenditures, now is as good a time as any to create one and stick to it! If you can afford to participate at the Tuition Assistance level for your program of interest, don’t apply for a scholarship. If you can’t afford to participate at the tuition assistance level, apply for a scholarship. If you don’t get a scholarship award from us or don’t get funding for your preferred program of interest, please don’t come back to us and say, for example, “You know, it turns out my child’s grandparents were able to kick in more than expected and we’d like to enroll at the ‘tuition assistance’ level.” We’re going to tell you that you should have figured that out before seeking funding from us. We can’t magically make another place on the program available and we will have already issued acceptance decisions based on the candidates in both our scholarship and regular applicant pools. Another way of putting this is that we operate from the perspective that families seeking financial assistance have a very finite budget and their ability to make a financial contribution towards the program costs is inelastic. If a family tells us in their scholarship application that they can only afford to contribute X amount of dollars towards a program, and we aren’t able to meet their remaining need through a scholarship, we are simply going to deny that student a scholarship and move on to another candidate. If that family than responds to the denial of a scholarship award and tell us that they actually can afford Y amount of dollars instead of X, we aren’t going to change our award decision even if we would have made an award had the family initially told us they could contribute Y towards the program. Consequently the parent completing the statement of financial circumstances as part of our scholarship application should be as precise as possible when considering what amount to specify as a family contribution based on your family budget. It is, of course, much more fiscally manageable for us as an organization to make a scholarship award of 40% than of 80%, so if you’re considering “low-balling” your family contribution “just to see” if you can get a more generous scholarship award from our committee, you should know that you are, in effect, decreasing your odds of receiving a scholarship award. This is particularly true if you are only interested in one specific Sustainable Summer program. We understand that this “black and white” approach does not reflect the complexities of household budgets. However, we firmly believe that every family is best served by establishing a fixed budget for a large discretionary expenditure such as a Sustainable Summer program (or any other summer enrichment experience) and sticking with it. We wish it wasn’t necessary to be so paternalistic, but experience has taught us that we must be. While there are many parents that totally “get” it and are realistic about the financial considerations of participation, there are equally as many that don’t. We’ve found that using blunt language like this helps families navigate the financial aid process.