Admission & Financial Aid FAQ

Each year, Vail Mountain School awards more than $1,300,000 in tuition assistance. Answers to many common questions can be found below, but we encourage you to contact the Office of Admissions to discuss your situation. Many families are surprised to discover that they qualify and approximately 25% of our current families receive tuition assistance. 


VMS tuition is beyond our family’s means. Should we still apply?

Vail Mountain School strongly believes that the cost of tuition should not deter families from considering an independent school education for their child. We dedicate significant resources to providing need-based tuition assistance to families from all cultural, racial and socioeconomic groups.

Will an application for tuition assistance affect an applicant’s chances of acceptance?

No. Application for admission and application for tuition assistance are independent processes and students are admitted or “accepted” based solely on their ability to meet the criteria for admission.

What are the criteria for a student to be accepted?

Candidates are evaluated by an admission committee comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators. Committees begin each evaluation by asking the overarching question, “Does the applicant have the potential to thrive and be happy in this environment?”  They consider school records, teacher recommendations, relevant testing data, personal and family interviews, visit day observations, and other aspects of the applicant’s learning profile to determine:
  • Is the applicant ready for us, and are we ready for them?  
  • Are they capable of being successful in our learning environment; can we challenge and support them, recognizing their needs as an individual learner?
  • Does the applicant demonstrate strong character and the potential for leadership?
  • Will the family partner with the school in supporting the needs of the student?

What is the difference between acceptance and enrollment, and what is a waitpool?

Acceptance is a binary decision meaning that an applicant has met the criteria for admission. Enrollment occurs when a family returns a completed enrollment agreement and pays their tuition deposit. At this point, the school officially reserves a spot in a given grade for the student and they are considered enrolled. In cases where the applicant is accepted, but the grade is full, a space in the waitpool will be offered. Our waitpool is not a ranked list, but a group of applicants we will consider for enrollment when space becomes available.

With the high level of demand in most grades, how does the school select which students to enroll?

In preparation for college and beyond, we strive to create a diverse mix of students in each grade and throughout our school. We define diversity not solely in terms of race and ethnicity, but also gender, learning styles, life experiences, passions, socio-economic factors, and personality. We begin by offering enrollment to students who create this diversity, regardless of any other factors, including whether or not the family has indicated a need for tuition assistance.

Can the need for tuition assistance affect enrollment?

Tuition assistance is not a part of the admission process, the binary decision of whether or not an applicant meets the criteria for acceptance. This process is completely needs-blind and admission committees have no knowledge of whether or not a family applies for financial aid.  

The need for tuition assistance can affect the school’s ability to enroll a student. While VMS offers more than $1,000,000 dollars of need-based tuition assistance each year, demand always exceeds resources. The Financial Aid Committee must consider many factors including the overall budget, the needs of individual grades, and the enrollment goals of the school. Tuition assistance can be used to help in achieving diversity goals as well as bridging the cost of a VMS education for families that are experiencing temporary setbacks.

What if an applicant is offered enrollment, but the school cannot offer adequate tuition assistance to meet the family’s needs?

In cases where a student is offered enrollment, but the school is unable to meet the tuition assistance needs of a family, they may join the enrollment waitpool and re-apply for tuition assistance the following year. In cases where the school is able to offer adequate tuition assistance to meet their needs during a subsequent year, or a family’s financial situation changes, an offer of enrollment may be extended, space permitting and assuming that the student remains in good academic and disciplinary standing. To remain current in the waitpool, students are required to submit their most recent school records and a current teacher recommendation.

If we receive tuition assistance for my child’s first year, will we receive the same award in subsequent years?

Families must reapply for financial aid for each year the student is enrolled at VMS. In many cases, a family’s award will remain the same with an increase to offset any rise in tuition. In some cases, a family’s financial circumstances may change over the course of the year which could be reflected in the new award.

Tuition Assistance Application

Throughout our more than fifty year history, we’ve been committed to serving the local community by providing need-based tuition assistance, which currently amounts to more than $1,000,000 per year and is granted to nearly ⅓ of our families. Applications for tuition assistance must be submitted each year a child is enrolled at VMS. Grants are awarded on the basis of a family’s demonstrated need. To help evaluate need, VMS employs the nationally standardized system, FACTS Management. After reviewing a family’s application, FACTS computes a figure for the family’s expected contribution towards tuition.

Non-custodial parents are exempt from submitting a financial aid application only if documentation is provided stating that: their location is unknown, or that they provide no support and have had no contact with the family for at least two years. If there are any other extenuating circumstances that might waive this requirement, written requests should be sent to the VMS Business Office.

The FACTS Application includes:
  • Completing the FACTS online application
  • Submitting a signed copy of the parents’ complete federal and state tax returns, including W-2 forms to FACTS

Click here to begin the FACTS application