So you’ve been accepted to a great college only to find out that the financial aid you’ve got isn’t enough to pay for your tuition. One of the options you have might be to craft a well-written financial aid appeal letter.
Your financial aid award letter tells you how much and what type of financial aid you’re eligible to receive from a school after you’ve been accepted.
But you don’t have to accept those terms if you think you got an unfair deal. You can appeal your offer by writing a letter to the school’s financial aid office and asking for additional funds.
A financial aid appeal letter is a way to present your case for more financial aid from a college. It should explain why you need additional funds, including details about your current financial situation and documents that back up your argument.
While it’s not guaranteed to work, a convincing enough letter could get you more grants and scholarships, reducing the number of student loans you need to take out.
When You Should Appeal
Maybe your financial situation has changed—a parent becomes unemployed or takes a lower-paying job, or money intended for college is now needed to pay for health care–and suddenly your need is greater.
Perhaps aid you’ve been granted has been withdrawn. Or, you were denied outright. There is any number of reasons why you may find yourself needing to write a financial aid appeal letter.
The most likely will probably be attributable to an unexpected change in your personal economic situation. For instance:
Serious medical situations
Another situation: the income listed on your FAFSAisn’t quite accurate. How can that be? Maybe a good chunk of it will go to reduce the debt you’re carrying, and can’t be put toward college costs.
What if you lose financial aid because you’ve failed to maintain the requisite grades? You might be able to appeal if you’ve experienced a dramatic life event, such as:
The first thing to do is to acknowledge the award already received and express gratitude for it.
Your student should explain how excited they are to attend the school, and how glad they are that the school offers help so that students can afford to attend.
Next, the letter should express regret because the current financial aid package doesn’t allow your student to fulfill their desire to attend the school.
Express the financial considerations that make attending the school difficult or impossible with the current aid package.
Of course, these should be strong reasons. Paying for a second home or a parent’s desire to retire is not a strong reason. Illness, death, job loss, or an additional child in school, however, can be very strong reasons.
Be careful about the language in the letter. Never refer to the situation as a “negotiation,” because financial aid offices don’t negotiate.
Instead, be clear that your student understands the decision but feels there are additional circumstances to consider.
Be extremely respectful, and use the name of the financial aid office if at all possible. Never use the appeals letter to vent frustration or insult the school, process, or officer. Obviously, that won’t help you win anything!
Finally, include any forms required by the school, along with documentation of any extra expenses. Perhaps the FAFSA didn’t reflect costs your family has from helping ailing grandparents, for instance.
If competing offers are in play, you can include those as your documentation as well.
Say Thank You!
Remember that financial aid officers are working their tail off during this time. They are hearing from so many families and considering so many situations, it’s exhausting.
What’s one way to stand out? Send a thank you letter after you get the appeal information! This is the time to be as nice as you’ve ever been in your life.
You and your student should be grateful and kind throughout the entire process – this will mean a lot to the financial aid office, even if they can’t grant your appeal.
Even if you get a “no,” you never know when you might need an ally in financial aid in the future!
1. When is the best time to appeal my financial aid award?
The best time to appeal is usually just after you’ve received your financial aid award letters from all of the schools you’ve been accepted to. This gives you enough time to apply for outside scholarships and loans if your appeal is denied. And you’ll be able to use other financial aid award letters to bolster your argument if you got a better deal from another school.
2. How long does a financial aid appeal take?
It can take between a few days and a few weeks to get an answer, depending on the school. When you email the financial aid office, ask how long it might take to hear back about a decision.
3. How do I check the status of my appeal?
It depends on the appeals process at the school. If you’re not sure what the procedure is for checking your status, call or email the financial aid office.
You don’t need to write off your dream school if your financial aid award isn’t enough. Writing an appeal to the school’s financial aid office could help you qualify for additional funds.
Stick to the numbers and keep it short to increase your likelihood of being approved.
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