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Financial Aid Appeal: How to Get More Financial Aid

You received your financial aid offer letter from your school, and it’s just not enough to help cover your college costs. In this case, you do have the option to file a financial aid appeal (also known as a special circumstance appeal).

How to Appeal Financial Aid

A financial aid appeal offers you an opportunity to ask your school for more financial assistance. But just walking into your advisor’s office and asking for more money won’t cut it. There is an appeal process to follow, and this is an opportunity for you to advocate for yourself and help make college more affordable.

  1. Start with outlining your "why" - You need to explain why additional funds should go to you. For example, you received a better financial aid offer from another school. Or you could have experienced major changes in your family’s financial situation. After all, you completed the FAFSA with financial information from two years ago. In that time, a lot could have changed. The Financial Aid Office may not always be the department to handle these decisions but start with them. If necessary, they will refer you to the department that can assist you with things like merit or athletic-based aid.
  2. Although there can be a variety of reasons why you need additional financial assistance, these are some common reasons:

  • Loss of a job, like permanent layoffs/reductions in force, or temporary layoffs like furloughs and standby
    • Lost wages of student or parent due to shelter in place, quarantine or even illness due to COVID-19
  • You believe there was a mistake processing your FAFSA
  • Loss of a family member
  • Unexpected medical expenses
  • Change in a housing status, or you’ve become homeless
  • Other family members have decided to enroll in college
  • This list is not all inclusive and there can be many other reasons why you are facing financial difficulties. The best advice we can give you is to speak up and ask for additional assistance if you are struggling.

  1. Prepare a letter or submit an application on your school’s website – You will need to submit an appeal letter or special circumstances application online. Continue reading for more specific direction on next steps, including what you should include in your appeal.

How to Ask for More Financial Aid

It’s best to check out your school’s financial aid website to see if they offer any guidance for their financial aid appeal process. Do they recommend you submit the appeal by email? Through your portal? Or are you required to have a discussion with your financial aid advisor? Learn exactly which way your school wants you to communicate with them to save time and frustration.

While most students appeal their financial aid at the start of a term or prior, you should also know that a financial aid appeal can happen at any time, even in the middle of the academic year.

The decision of a financial aid appeal is in the hands of your school. Here are our recommendations:

  1. Begin the process as soon as possible. As soon as you determine you need additional financial assistance, start your conversations with your school. Don’t wait until the last minute. The closer you get to your term start date, the busier your financial aid office will be.
  2. Research. Do you know someone who successfully appealed their financial aid package? Ask them how they did it. Did they draft an email or letter? Ask for a copy. Look online to see if anyone has had success with appealing financial aid at your school. Even if you can’t find examples specific to your school, it’ll give you an idea of how to approach the conversation.
  3. Be involved. It’s okay if your parents want to help, but you’re the student enrolled in school. If your parents want to help, let them know you’ll take the lead and would appreciate any guidance they have to offer. Some schools won’t speak to parents if the student is not present.
  4. Be prepared! Complete any necessary forms and have documentation to demonstrate the changes in your financial situation. If you’re meeting in person, it may be easier to have physical copies of tax returns, pay stubs, etc., rather than trying to pull them up on your phone. If you’re having conversations by phone, ask your advisor for the best place to email the documents.
  5. Be patient with your school. If you are on hold, or your advisor is running late with appointments, don’t get frustrated. Many times, your school officials are doing the best they can and are trying to help as many students as possible.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Your school’s appeal process will determine how you need to submit your letter. You may need to mail it to a specific person, submit it through a portal, or send it to a specific email address. If you don’t know where to send it, you want to start by reaching out to your financial aid office or directly to your assigned advisor.

How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

You can always try to find an online template or modify letters you know worked for others. But if you need to start from scratch, here’s the approach you should take.

  • Keep it formal. You should put clear effort into this request, especially since you’re asking your school to consider giving you additional money when other students may also be submitting requests.
  • Clearly explain your situation. Why should your financial aid office consider your request for additional funds? Explain why you think additional funds should go to you and why you would be an asset on their campus.
  • Provide information about any special circumstances. Be honest here, is there something going on and you need additional help? Although it may be difficult to discuss problems, your financial aid office can only help you if they understand what is going on.
  • Include appropriate documentation. You want to support your request with additional proof of your circumstances if it’s appropriate to do so.
  • Ask for a specific amount. It may be helpful for the financial aid office to understand how much you really need. Fulfilling a request for an additional $1,000 is a lot different than $10,000. You could also suggest alternative types of assistance. For example, could you qualify for a reduce cost meal plan, or would your school be willing to charge you in-state versus out-of-state tuition?
  • Thank your financial aid office for their time. This is a formal request, and discretion to offer additional assistance will be up to your school. It doesn’t hurt to be polite.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Sample

Time to go online. A quick online search can help you find many examples people used to ask for additional financial aid funds. But don’t forget to check your school’s website. Many schools have an online application form or provide details of what to include in an appeal letter. If you encounter a school form that doesn’t exactly meet your needs, that’s not a reason to give up. Set up some time with your Financial Aid Office to discuss your situation and determine the best way to submit a special circumstances appeal request.

Some examples include:

How Often Do Financial Aid Appeals Get Approved?

Financial aid appeals are approved or denied at the discretion of your school. Your chances of approval will depend on many factors, like whether or not the school is able to offer more federal aid. Or what type of financial resources your school has to offer to students.

When it comes down to it, it’s always best to ask. Even if your school is unable to offer additional funds, they may have recommendations to help you. There could be emergency grants, food or housing assistance.

What If My Financial Aid Appeal is Rejected?

If your appeal is rejected, it may feel a bit overwhelming. But there are a few more things you could do.

  1. Make some adjustments to your enrollment status. Give yourself some time. If you can go half-time, you may be able to work to help cover your college tuition, as well as other life expenses you may have. If you need even more time, ask your school if you can defer enrollment for a year. Take some time to earn some money or handle any personal issues you are dealing with.
  2. Look at other sources of financial aid.
    • Ask your school if they have a tuition payment plan. This could help you cover your tuition bill over a few months, instead of paying a lump sum.
    • If you haven’t already, start looking at scholarship opportunities. They may not help you this year, but they could help relieve some financial stress for future terms.
    • Look at private student loan opportunities. Private student loans can be used to help you pay for college related costs. If you are unable to apply on your own, you can always apply with a creditworthy cosigner.

Learn More About Federal Student Aid

Filing the FAFSA

Dependency Status

Student Parent Financial Information

Avoiding Errors Filing Head of Household

Financial Aid Appeals

Parent Information

FAFSA Deadlines

What is Financial Aid?

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