Financial Aid •

December 20, 2021

How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

A good financial aid appeal letter can help you pay for school despite financial difficulties. Find out how to write the perfect appeal letter.

Financial aid appeal letter

We don’t need to tell you that college is more expensive than ever. 

Fortunately, there are many college financial aid programs available. In fact, in the 2019–2020 school year, 86.4% of applicants received some sort of financial aid.

Unfortunately, it’s up to students to make sure that they are receiving all the financial aid available to them. 

An estimated $2 billion in financial aid goes unclaimed each year! 

So what happens if you don’t get the financial aid you were hoping for? What if you were only offered federal student loans when you were expecting grants

You may be able to appeal the decision by submitting a formal financial aid appeal letter. 

In this guide, we’ll explain how to write a financial aid appeal letter and the reasons why you may want to.

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What is a financial aid appeal letter?

After you file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from the college or university. This letter will cover the details of your scholarships, federal student loans, and grants. 

If your situation has changed since you filed your FAFSA, or if you didn’t receive the aid you were expecting, you have the option to appeal the financial aid decision.

Appealing financial aid typically involves writing a financial aid appeal letter to the school. In it, you must describe the what and the why—meaning, what type of aid you are asking for, and why you believe you deserve that aid. 

The amount of financial aid you receive is based on a combination of factors, including your income and the expected financial support from your family. 

But if the information on your FAFSA was incorrect, you may not have received the aid you were expecting.

Likewise, if you’ve had a substantial change in income or another major life event, you may have a solid case for appealing the financial aid decision.

Reasons to write a financial aid appeal letter 

 Reasons to write a financial aid appeal letter

Here are some common situations in which you may wish to write a financial aid appeal letter seeking additional aid:

Loss of income: If you or someone you live with has lost their job or had their hours reduced, your current household income will likely be lower than the income level stated on the FAFSA. This is one of the most common reasons to appeal a financial aid decision. 

Incorrect information: If you made a mistake on your FAFSA, this could cause you to get an incorrect financial aid award. For instance, if you accidentally added an extra zero to a family member’s income, this could affect the amount of aid you’re eligible for. 

Unexpected expenses: If your household has experienced a lot of financial strain due to unexpected expenses, the school may be willing to modify your financial aid award. For instance, if a major medical expense affects your family’s ability to provide financial support, this could alter the expected family contribution (EFC). 

Major life event: If your family experiences a major life event, such as a death in the family or a divorce, this may cause a substantial drop in household income—and potentially open the door for your financial aid award to change.

How to write a financial aid appeal letter 

How to write financial aid appeal letter

Writing a financial aid letter can feel intimidating, but it really just requires you to know the basics ahead of time. For the best chance of successfully appealing the financial aid decision, follow the steps below.

1. Research school requirements

Each college and university will have slightly different expectations and requirements when it comes to appealing financial aid. Some may require a written letter, while others will have a specific form to fill out. Likewise, due dates for appeals vary by school.

To learn more, you can contact your school’s financial aid office and ask about the appeals process. You can also try researching online by searching for “[your school] financial aid appeal” and similar search terms. 

2. Find the right contact

For best results, it’s helpful to address your appeal letter to a specific individual at your school’s financial aid department. Most schools have a directory of staff that students can access. While you can simply address the letter to “financial aid department,” you may find more success in writing to a specific contact. 

3. Determine how much aid to ask for

During the appeals process, you will want to ask for a specific amount of money. Before appealing, do the math to figure out how much aid you actually need to attend the school, and be prepared to explain this amount. 

4. Be clear and succinct

Your school’s financial aid department is busy. For best results, keep your writing clear and concise. Generally speaking, a financial aid appeal letter should be no more than 1 page in length. 

5. Be grateful and courteous

It’s important to write respectfully and in the right tone. Begin the letter with gratitude for the financial aid you’ve already been offered, and close it with a genuine thank you for the consideration to alter your aid amount. 

6. Consider using a financial aid appeal letter template

If your school does not have a specific form and requests a written letter, it can be helpful to use a template. SwiftStudent is a free resource that offers templates and other useful resources to help you write your appeal letter. 

7. Include all necessary information

You don’t need to write your life story—but you will need to cover all the relevant information as to why you are appealing the decision. This includes details of special circumstances, the exact amount you are asking for, and appropriate documentation. 

A good financial aid appeal letter will include all the necessary information without excessive “fluff.” It should be concise, genuine, and respectful. 

We’ll discuss exactly what to include in your appeal letter in the section below. 

What should I write in my financial aid appeal letter? 

What to include in financial aid appeal letter

Here are the specific points that should be included in your letter. Be sure to check your specific school’s requirements to confirm what should be included. 

A clear “ask” 

You will need to directly ask the financial aid office to reconsider your aid amount. You should also include a specific amount of money that you are asking for and why that amount would enable you to attend the school. 

A specific “why” 

You will also need to explain why you are requesting the additional money and why you believe you deserve it. 

This is where you should describe any unexpected circumstances or major life changes that may have altered you or your family’s ability to pay for school.

Relevant documentation

Attach any documents that demonstrate the change in circumstances. This could be a large medical bill, a death certificate of someone in the family, or a notice of layoff/unemployment application to prove a change in income. 

You can refer to these in your writing and then attach the actual documents to your letter. 

A personal address

As noted, you should address the letter to a specific individual within your school’s financial aid department if you can. Throughout the letter, you can refer to this individual by name. You’ll want to try and be personal yet respectful. 

When should I submit my financial aid appeal letter? 

You should submit a financial aid appeal as soon as possible after receiving your award letter. 

Your school may have deadlines for the appeals process—ask the financial aid department, or check online for details specific to your school.

There is a common misconception that financial aid “runs out” and that you need to be one of the first to apply to qualify. 

However, when it comes to federal aid such as Pell grants and federal loans, this is not usually true. As long as you’ve submitted your FAFSA by the federal deadline, you’ll be eligible for federal financial aid. 

There are caps on how much benefit each student can receive, but there are typically no caps on the amount of money that can be doled out overall through federal aid programs. 

However, it’s different when it comes to college need-based financial aid. Many schools have their own financial assistance programs available to students, but unlike federal funds, this money is limited. 

For this reason, it’s helpful to apply for financial aid and appeal aid decisions ASAP if you don’t receive the aid you need. 

Financial aid appeal letter sample

Financial aid appeal letter example

November 14, 2021

Ms. Nadia Parks

Office of Financial Aid

[University or college name]

[University or college address]

Dear Ms. Parks,

I am Samantha Hopkins, an incoming freshman at [university]. I am very much looking forward to attending school this fall. I want to thank you for the financial aid package extended to me. I am very grateful. 

Unfortunately, my family has experienced a change in income that will affect my ability to pay for school. My mother was laid off due to COVID-19, and she has been unable to find another position yet. As such, the household income reported on my FAFSA is now incorrect, and my family will be unable to help me cover college expenses. My family’s expected household income has dropped from $90,000 to an estimated $45,000, affecting their ability to provide financial support for my education.

I truly hope that I can still attend [university] this fall, but my financial situation has changed, and my ability to attend is now in jeopardy. 

I am asking for a review of my financial aid award, with consideration of my family’s new financial circumstances. I am respectfully requesting additional financial aid in the amount of $5,000 to help me pursue my education. Your help is greatly appreciated, and I thank you for taking the time to review my financial aid award. 

Attached, please find confirmation of my mother’s termination, as well as the requested financial aid appeal form from your office. If any additional information or documentation is needed, please email or call me. 

Sincerely, 

Samantha Hopkins [address] [phone number] [email address]

What happens after you send your appeal letter 

When you submit your appeal letter, a financial aid officer at your school will review it and either approve or deny the appeal. 

If they approve your appeal, you’ll receive a new financial aid award letter detailing the new amount of financial aid you’ll receive for the upcoming academic year. 

If they deny your appeal, you typically won’t be able to appeal the decision again unless your circumstances have changed again. 

The appeals process can take several weeks or longer, but it really depends on the school. Your school’s financial aid department should be able to tell you how long the process typically takes. 

While you are waiting for the decision, the best thing to do is to explore other ways to help pay for college expenses, including niche scholarships. Mos can help you navigate the scholarship process to help you get every dollar possible to fund your education. 

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Conclusion

Submitting a financial aid appeal letter is well worth doing if you find that your financial aid award is not what you were hoping for. 

The process can take as little as an hour, and it can really pay off if your appeal is granted. 

If you want help navigating the student loan, financial aid, and scholarship process, check out Mos. We help students get the most money for school possible—plus, Mos now offers banking services specifically designed for students! 

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