How To Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

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Receiving college acceptance letters is such an exciting time: all the hard work you put into your academics, extracurriculars, essays, applications, and internships finally feels like it’s paying off. However, the next step can be even more stressful than applying: figuring out how to pay. 

Many students rely on financial aid to help them afford college. But what do you do when the school doesn’t offer you as much financial aid as you need? This is where a financial aid appeal letter comes in.

What Is A Financial Aid Appeal Letter?

A financial aid appeal letter is what it sounds like: it is a letter that you write in order to appeal the offer the school made you. Schools often determine your “Expected Family Contribution,” or EFC. An EFC is how much FAFSA and your school thinks your family can afford to contribute to help pay. Some schools also base their decision off of a CSS profile.

A financial aid appeal letter explains why the school’s numbers are not accurate and requests a higher aid offer. They are most often successful when there has been a change of circumstance since the applicant first applied – but we’ll get to that later!

When To Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

The first thing to do is to check your school’s website. They might have specific instructions and timelines for how to appeal a financial aid offer.

In general, however, you want to apply as soon as you can. Schools have limited funds to distribute for financial aid, so making your needs known soon will put you in the best position to get the help you need!

With this in mind, don’t rush the process. Take the time you need to write a clear and personal letter and include relevant evidence. 

What To Include In Your Financial Aid Appeal Letter

With all this in mind, you are ready to begin writing your appeal letter. Check the school’s website to see if they have specific procedures. If not, find the contact information for a specific officer of financial aid at the school and begin writing! 

Here are some things to be sure to include:

    • A specific person. Instead of addressing your letter “To Whom It May Concern” or “Sir or Madam,” find a director or officer or financial aid pro and address your letter to them by name. This adds a personal touch and shows that you have done your research!
    • Gratitude and humility. Be sure to show your excitement for your acceptance into the school as well as your gratitude for any financial aid they did offer. Even if you are frustrated by the offer, your letter should not reflect that.
  • Details of a change of circumstance. Many schools will only consider a financial aid appeal if there is a change of circumstance or a circumstance that was not reflected in your FAFSA or original application. A change of circumstance could be if a parent lost a job, if there was a natural disaster that impacted you and your household, or if there was a divorce, illness, or death in the family that impacted the financial situation. 
  • Evidence and Documentation. You will have a better chance if you can include evidence of the change of circumstance! Reference the documents in your letter and attach them. If the office asks for specific forms, make sure to fill those out correctly and include them as well.
  • A competing offer, if applicable. Sometimes, it might be appropriate to include a competing financial aid offer you received from a different school in your letter as well.
  • An exact amount. Specificity is really important. Instead of just asking for “more” or an “increase” in aid, be specific in how much you and your family can pay and the gap between that and the offer the school gave. Be prepared to compromise.
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What Makes A Great Financial Aid Appeal Letter

A great financial aid appeal letter will include all of the above points. It will be succinct and clear: your letter should be one-page maximum. A great financial appeal letter is genuine; you should be the one writing it, not a parent or guardian. 

Include the steps you are planning to take or have already taken to try and make attending your dream school work. Are you taking a work study job? Have you earned scholarships? Show the office of financial aid that you are doing your part to attend. This will make them more likely to do their part.

A great financial aid letter is also professional and mature. After writing it, proofread and revise. Ask trusted friends and mentors to read it over for any issues with spelling, grammar, or tone. 

Financial aid officers usually are fielding a lot of questions and requests, especially after offers go out to prospective students. You want it to be clear that you are taking your education and their time seriously.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Example

March 7, 2020

Mr. John Benson

Office of Financial Aid, College State University

321 Main Street

State Town, PA 19010

Dear Mr. Benson,

Hello. I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Jane Smith. I recently received my acceptance to College State University, which has been my dream school for as long as I can remember. I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to attend CSU! I received a financial aid package along with my acceptance, attached for reference. I am so grateful for CSU’s generosity and commitment to helping all students access an amazing education.

However, I am writing to request an appeal of my initial financial aid offer. Since applying for financial aid, my and my family’s financial situation has changed considerably. In October of 2020, my mother was laid off from her position as an office secretary. Her letter of dismissal is attached to this letter. My mother is the main income earner in our family. She is working part-time at a grocery store to make ends meet for now (pay stubs attached). The $5000 she had committed to being able to pay to help me attend CSU is simply no longer an option.

I was planning on committing my money from my after-school job to help pay for tuition, but now most of my money from that job is now going towards our family expenses as well. I am able to take an extra $2000 in unsubsidized student loans to cover what I would have covered with my summer job. I have already committed to a work study job to help pay living expenses. However, I am still $5000 short if I am to attend CSU this fall.

I am committed to my education and would love to take my next steps at CSU. I hope that you will reconsider my initial financial aid offer with these new circumstances in mind. An increased financial aid offer will allow me to attend and thrive at my dream school. I am so grateful for the aid already offered, and I can’t thank you enough for your time reading this letter and your consideration. Please let me know if you need any additional documentation. Feel free to reach out to me any time; my contact information is below. 

Thank you so much for your time.

Sincerely,

Jane Smith

555-1298

[email protected] 

Other Options

After sending your letter and appeal, it might be a good idea to look into other options as a back-up. Scholarships can be a great way to bridge a gap between a financial aid offer and what you can afford. Additionally, many schools have emergency funds. That may be what your financial aid officer suggests, so start doing research ahead of time to get a head start.

Some students look to getting private loans to help pay for college. Be careful; private loans often have much higher interest rates than educational loans subsidized by the government.

It may also be wise to start looking at other schools. Did you receive any better offers? If not, look to see if you can still apply to schools with rolling admissions to give yourself as many options as possible.

Conclusion: Financial Aid Appeal Letter

One of the most stressful parts of college is often the financial side of it. It completely makes sense if you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a financial aid appeal letter; it can feel stressful, embarrassing, and challenging.

Remember that you are an asset to the school: they want amazing students like you to attend their school! Explain clearly what you need and if they can’t help, remember that it isn’t a reflection on you.

The worst thing they can do is say no. Even though writing this letter and gathering documentation may seem like a lot of work, there is a significant chance that the college will be able to offer you something, even if it’s not exactly what you wanted. If the college you are applying to is your dream school, it is certainly worth the effort to try.

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