How to Write a Letter of Appeal for Financial Aid

How to Write a Letter of Appeal for Financial Aid

Was your Student Aid Index (SAI) too high and now you’re left with a too-little financial aid package? Did your child retake the ACT/SAT to get a significantly higher score? You can amend your financial aid package based on your student’s application or a change in your family’s situation. How? Through the appeal process. 

A financial aid appeal is a request for additional aid, a more lucrative offer, or a higher grant amount often spurred by a change in family circumstances. 

Colleges and universities are inundated with appeals from students whose families have fallen on hard economic times due to the coronavirus pandemic or any other hardship that does not necessarily get reflected on the financial aid applications like the FAFSA and CSS Profile. Many families’ ability to pay for college has changed, and their aid package should change with it.  

If you feel that something needs to be altered, start the financial aid appeal process. Below is a simple guide on how to write a letter of appeal for financial aid. 

Should you appeal your financial aid offer?

In general, two broad categories could warrant an appeal:

1. Exceptional merit/multiple offers

2. Special or unusual circumstances

You can appeal for more aid if you received better offers from other schools or if your student has exceptionally high test scores. Most appeal letters, however, fall under the second category, especially as families continue to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special circumstances include job loss, salary reduction/loss of income, death of a parent, unreimbursed medical expenses, divorce/separation of student’s parents, serious illness, natural disaster, and more.

Learn more about two-household ( divorced/separated ) families: What Divorced, Separated, and Two Household Families Need to Know About the FAFSA and CSS Profile

When is a letter of appeal due?

You can submit an appeal at any time. There is no particular due date, but it’s often best to start the process as soon as you experience a change in circumstances. If, for example, you were furloughed earlier this year, start the process as soon as you receive the formal letter or notice. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of a semester or if school is out of session—the earlier you file, the better.

How do you submit an appeal?

Each university has its own appeals process, making it critical to follow the specific system. You will almost always be writing a letter of appeal, but some schools require additional information or forms. Contact the school’s financial aid office to discover whom to contact about the appeal, how to get in touch with them, and the requirements you must meet.

Best practices for writing a letter of appeal for financial aid

Once you understand how the appeal process works at a specific school, you will need to make your case in an appeal letter. It’s important to get this letter right, so here are some best practices to keep in mind as they start writing.

  • Have your student submit the appeal. It is important for you to remember that it is the student appealing for additional financial aid, not the parents. Of course, parents need to provide much of the supporting documentation in many cases, but the best results come when the student is presenting their case.
  • Keep it short and sweet. A one-page letter is ideal.
  • Be honest and authentic. It’s critical to express your circumstances using direct and persuasive language. You shouldn’t smudge or veil your situation, instead clearly express how your ability to pay for school has changed. Avoid vague language or overarching statements. 
  • Provide adequate supporting documentation. When it comes to your appeal letter: document, document, document. Your specific circumstances need to be properly documented whether it’s a termination notice, tax documents, test scores, or other merit-based requests. Be sure to attach this documentation to the letter.
  • Ensure the writing is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. Now isn’t the time to push the envelope on writing style. Stick to traditional grammar rules and proofread the document so it’s free of errors. The last thing you want to do is misspell the school’s name when you’re appealing for more money. 

Why should you appeal for more financial aid?

The price of college isn’t set in stone and neither is the financial aid that your family received in the mail. You will likely be overwhelmed by the process, so break it into small, manageable, and actionable steps.

Financial aid is a crucial component of college affordability. By being proactive about your student’s aid package, you can help save your child thousands of dollars, and may even allow them to take on one less student loan.

Worried appealing might impact your child’s admission to a particular college? Learn more in Does Appealing for More Financial Aid Affect Admissions.

Need help writing a letter of appeal?

We know that this can be confusing. Having someone who knows what colleges are looking for to review your letter of appeal would be so helpful. Well, we can do that. 

This can be to discuss how to write a letter of appeal for financial aid, review net price of various college options on your child’s “to apply” list, or even help you try to ask for more free scholarship money from a particular university. 

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