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- Submitting a financial aid appeal letter won’t guarantee that you’ll get approved for more aid, but it could increase your chances.
- It may be wise to submit a letter if another school has offered you more financial aid or if your financial circumstances have changed since submitting your FAFSA.
- State the reason you need more aid clearly and concisely in your letter and keep a respectful tone to increase your chances of getting more aid.
After receiving a financial aid decision from your college, you can submit a financial aid appeal letter. This letter states additional information as to why you deserve more financial aid. It should only be submitted if the original financial aid decision did not consider changed circumstances or additional information not reflected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The letter includes information like why the situation has changed to reduce your household’s income or mentioning that another school offered more financial aid. The letter should be polite, succinct and professional, stating why the decision might impact your ability to attend the school.
Overturning the initial financial aid situation is not a given, but a well-worded letter could give you a chance to access greater financial aid.
After you submit your FAFSA and apply to a college, your college will send you a financial aid award letter detailing every type of aid available to you, including scholarships, work-study and federal student loans. Your financial aid is determined by the information you gave on your FAFSA, but circumstances may have changed since you submitted it.
If this is the case, you can send a letter to your school’s financial aid office appealing for more aid. While rare, it is possible to get more financial aid through this process. For some, a well-written letter is the only shot at getting more aid.
The letter should be submitted with care and for specific reasons; simply wanting more funds for financing your education isn’t enough. You’re most likely to receive more aid if you’ve experienced severe financial hardship since filling out your FAFSA.
How to write a financial aid appeal letter
Your financial aid appeal letter should explain your financial situation and why you need more aid, not a demand for more money.
Before you start writing, call your school’s financial aid office to discuss your options. Some colleges may have a different process than an appeal letter.
Don’t wait to write your appeal letter
Write your appeal letter as soon as possible to increase your chances of more aid. Schools have limited financial aid, so it’s smart to get your letter in early during the admissions process.
Look up the application closing date at your school and submit the letter well before, if possible. If you’re further into the admissions process, submit the letter as far before the term start date as possible.
Address a specific person
In your letter, you can address someone in the financial aid office you’ve talked to or someone listed on the department’s website. For more instruction, call the financial aid office and ask for the name of the best person to address. Addressing a specific person adds a personalized touch to your letter.
You may also want to ask how they’d like to be addressed for a title, such as including a Ms. before their name, if requested.
Be clear and concise
Explain your specific requests in a succinct, respectful tone. Your tone matters; stick to the facts of the situation and explain how the lack of financial aid impacts your ability to attend the school. You can find guides to help you write concisely, like the one from the University of Arizona.
Use specific examples to support your claim
Don’t hesitate to provide detailed examples of your current situation. If one of your parents was laid off, for instance, include details about when it happened and how much your family’s income has been reduced.
For instance, you might write in your financial aid appeal letter, “The situation with my family’s net income level has changed. My mother has had to go in for extensive medical treatment due to a car accident, and we are paying $30,000 in out-of-pocket medical bills.”
End on a positive note
Thank the specific person you addressed in the introduction, and thank them for the opportunity to request more financial aid. Express gratitude and end on a friendly note, with the expectation that you’ll hear from them soon.
While writing a professional letter like this can be intimidating, there are online resources and templates that you can use to guide you through the writing process. Before sending, see if you have a trusted friend, family member or school counselor proofread your letter.
Work with the financial aid office in case they also require proof of changed circumstances or any other paperwork.
Financial aid appeal letter example
Good reasons to write a financial aid appeal letter
When it comes to writing an appeal letter, there are specific circumstances that increase your chances of approval.
Another school offers more financial aid
If you apply to more than one school and find a big difference in financial aid packages, use that gap to bolster your appeal for more aid. However, only compare offers at similar types of schools. For example, don’t compare an offer at a private university with one from a large, public university in an appeal letter.
If you have two schools comparable in size and stature, compare both of your aid packages. Then calculate the amount of financial aid you should receive based on the school’s net price calculator (NPC), available on school websites.
“If your offer is lower than what was estimated on the school’s NPC, then you have a good case for an appeal,” says Jonathan Howard, a financial planner at SeaCure Advisors.
In your appeal letter, state the larger offer you received and the NPC information of the school you’re sending the letter to. This will create a stronger case and increase your chances of an appeal.
Your financial circumstances have changed
If your or your family’s financial situation changes or is not accurately portrayed on the FAFSA, you have a strong appeal case, says Howard.
“Schools that only use the FAFSA for financial aid applications aren’t collecting very much information,” he says. “Circumstances like job loss, or medical expenses — both of which are huge issues for many families due to the COVID-19 pandemic — would not appear on the FAFSA.”
Some circumstances that warrant a financial aid appeal letter are:
- Death of an immediate family member.
- Unexpected medical expenses.
- Job loss or a reduction in income.
What to do if your appeal letter gets denied
There are still plenty of ways to make higher education more affordable if your appeal letter gets denied:
- Apply for scholarships. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Because you don’t have to pay back these funds, they’re an ideal first step if you need help paying for college. There are scholarships available for just about everything, from schools, nonprofits and private organizations.
- Consider private student loans. After maximizing your federal aid and scholarship opportunities, private student loans can help cover any remaining costs. They’re usually a last resort since they can have higher interest rates than federal student loans, and they don’t have the same benefits. However, with high loan amounts and some unique features, they are worth considering if you otherwise can’t afford your education.
- Look at other programs. If you’ve exhausted every other financial aid option, consider a more affordable schooling option. Online schools and community colleges are often thousands of dollars cheaper than four-year universities. Many students attend community college for the first year or two of their education before transferring to a more expensive four-year college.
It can be daunting to write a financial aid appeal letter. You may worry you are coming off as needy or demanding, for instance. However, if you state the facts as clearly as possible, keep a respectful tone and write for a good reason, there’s nothing to worry about. You may just end up with the same amount of financial aid as before. If the letter is successful, you could save thousands of dollars on your education.