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For the vast majority of college students, financial aid is a necessity. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 87% of first-time, full-time students at four-year institutions received some form of federal financial aid.
If you don't get the amount of aid you were hoping for or need to attend school, you can write a financial aid appeal letter and ask for more. Here's when it can make sense and how to submit your appeal for more aid.
Reasons to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
Your federal financial aid award package is designed to provide you with the assistance you need based on your assumed financial circumstances. However, it's not a perfect process, and there are situations where there's room for negotiation.
In particular, you may consider appealing your financial aid award package if:
- Your or your family's financial situation has changed since you initially submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) due to unexpected circumstances like medical bills or unemployment.
- You made an error on the FAFSA that may have impacted the offer you received.
- Another university gave you a better offer, and you want to see if your desired school will match it.
If you aren't sure whether your situation merits an appeal, keep in mind that there's no harm in trying: The college won't revoke your admission over it. If you believe you have a reasonable chance of getting more aid, it can be worth your while.
Who Can Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter?
Writing the appeal letter yourself can help make your case stronger, but if you're struggling to express yourself or you're a minor, don't be afraid to ask one or both of your parents to help.
Ultimately, the important thing is to make sure you're providing all of the necessary information to make a compelling appeal based on your needs.
How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
As you write your financial aid appeal letter, it's important to ensure that your tone is polite and your grammar and spelling are free from errors. Keep it to one page to be respectful of the reader's time. With that in mind, here are some steps to help you craft your appeal:
- Address the reader by name. Instead of writing an impersonal "To whom it may concern," contact the school's financial aid office to find out who reviews appeals and address the letter to them.
- Introduce yourself. Provide some basic information about yourself, including your name and high school, and express gratitude for your acceptance at the school.
- Clearly state your need. Provide details about why you need more financial aid based on your situation. This may include explaining your family's recent financial difficulties or an error you made. Alternatively, you could provide a competing offer from another school and explain why you want to attend the college you're appealing to to match it.
- Provide documentation. Depending on the situation, enclose supporting documents to verify your need. This may include recent itemized medical bills, an eviction notice, proof of unemployment or a competing financial aid award package.
- Make a counteroffer. Run the numbers to determine how much additional financial aid you need, then share that figure in your letter.
- Ask about the next steps. Finish the letter by expressing gratitude again and asking about what else you can do or provide to make the appeal process go more smoothly.
Before you submit your appeal letter, be sure to proofread it carefully. If you wrote it yourself, you can also ask a parent or other loved one to review it to make sure that the tone, grammar and spelling are appropriate and accurate.
Sample Financial Aid Appeal Letter
Dear Annie Pahlow,
My name is Claire Howard, and I'm a senior at West High School. I was thrilled to be accepted at the University of Utah, which has been my top choice since I was a little girl growing up in the Avenues.
But while I would love to attend and believe my academic achievements would be an asset to the university, recent financial challenges have put me in a position where I may not have a choice. I'm respectfully asking you to reconsider my financial aid award package.
My single mother was recently diagnosed with a debilitating illness. In addition to a growing pile of medical bills, she was also forced to take unpaid leave from her job, leaving our family without the financial security we had.
Although she spent years preparing for financial emergencies, her reduced disability insurance income and savings aren't enough to cover our needs and also pay for my education. The financial aid award package I received totaled $20,000, but with my mother not currently able to contribute, I'm requesting $32,000 to cover my total cost of attendance at the school.
I'm grateful for your time in reading and considering my request. I've attached copies of recent medical bills and my mother's leave of absence confirmation, as well as past pay stubs and disability insurance payments to show the difference in income. Please let me know if there's anything else you need from me and what the next steps are.
What to Do if Your Financial Aid Appeal Is Denied
While a well-crafted appeal letter can improve your chances of getting more financial aid, there are no guarantees. If your financial aid appeal is denied, here are some steps you can take to get the help you need:
- Seek out private scholarships and grants. Websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb have databases consisting of millions of scholarships and grants offered by private organizations. While it can take time and effort to search and apply for opportunities that you're eligible for, there are plenty of options to help you bridge the gap.
- Look into other sources of aid. If you can't get enough help from free aid like scholarships and grants, figure out how much you can borrow using federal student loans. If there's still a shortfall, you may also consider private student loans or institutional loans.
- Search for employment. If your circumstances allow, working part time or even full time to get some extra income to help you pay for educational expenses.
- Consider a different college. While it may be disappointing, switching to a school that offers a better financial aid package or attending an inexpensive community college may be the best move. If the circumstances for your appeal are temporary, you may have the option to transfer to your desired school after a year or two.
The Bottom Line
If you received a financial aid package from your school of choice and it doesn't meet your needs, appealing the decision can potentially help you get sufficient aid to attend. As you write your financial aid appeal letter, it's crucial that you take your time to craft a thoughtful, respectful proposal based on your situation.
However, it's also important to prepare yourself by researching alternatives so that you can quickly pivot if you don't get the response you're hoping to receive.