How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
- The 2 Main Reasons to Appeal Financial Aid
- Steps to Write Your Appeal Letter
- Financial Aid Appeal Letter Examples
- Final Recap
Did you get accepted into your dream school, but the financial aid wasn’t sufficient?
Luckily, many colleges allow you to file an appeal to your financial aid award, where you ask for a new assessment of your financial situation or offers from other schools. There are many variables that are considered, so a better offer isn’t guaranteed, but filing an appeal may be worth a try.
If you’re interested in appealing or negotiating your financial aid award, it’s essential that you act quickly, follow the correct procedures, and provide all the right information, often in the form of a letter stating your case. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to put together a professional and persuasive financial aid appeal letter.
The 2 Main Reasons to Appeal Financial Aid
First of all, you’ll need to decide whether it’s worthwhile for you to file an appeal, as it will take some time and work on your part. Colleges will be most responsive if you have a change in financial situation or better offers from other schools.
If neither of these two situations apply to you, it is unlikely that the college will be willing to negotiate. You need to present a compelling reason for the college to give you more aid.
Change in Financial Situation
Colleges are willing to offer additional aid due to changing financial circumstances. The following situations qualify:
- Investment losses
- Losing a job
- Losing income at a job due to a pay cut or reduced hours
- Divorce or separation
- Change in out of pocket expenses (healthcare, childcare, family support, or natural disasters)
If any of these circumstances apply, you will need to show supporting documentation. Colleges will let you know which documents they might need after you contact them.
Another powerful tool to appeal your existing offer is with your other acceptances and financial aid letters. Colleges are responsive to two types of offers:
- A better financial aid offer or price at a school with comparable ranking
- Acceptance to a university with a higher ranking
Steps to Write Your Financial Aid Appeal Letter
1. Understand the college’s appeal process.
Check the school’s financial aid page to find official information about appealing your aid. Some schools have a specific online form to use. Others request that you submit the form in writing.
Figure out what exactly you’ll need to do and who you’ll need to contact. Your request is more likely to be successful if you follow the correct procedures!
2. Gather Information
Whatever the issue with your financial aid award, you’ll need to back up the statements in your appeal letter with documented facts. Take a moment to collect the documents you’ll need so that you can refer to them while you’re writing.
This includes the FAFSA and CSS profile (if applicable). What else you’ll need depends on the specifics of your situation, but could include proof of major expenses (like medical bills), documentation of a parent’s job loss, financial statements, legal documents, or competing award letters from other colleges.
You’ll need to submit copies of these documents along with your letter so that you can show why your award should be reconsidered. Some schools may even be able to accept certain documents as scans via email, but you should always check first—sometimes this is not possible for security reasons.
3. Structure Your Argument
First of all, remind the college that you want to attend! There’s a reason why this school chose you and you chose this school; it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Explain that despite this desire, unless your financial aid is increased, you won’t likely be able to enroll.
Then, cover why you need more aid. If the current expected family contribution would represent an extreme hardship for your family, say so, and explain the situation. If you have a better offer from another similarly-ranked college, ask if this college can adjust your award. If anything about your financial status has changed your family’s ability to pay, include this as well.
Refer to your supporting documents to bolster your argument with specifics. Sometimes people are reluctant to share these personal financial details, but if you’re arguing that your financial need is higher than it seems, you’ll need to demonstrate it with documentation.
Be direct and stick to the facts. Don’t try to compare yourself to what you may have heard about other students and their awards, and be realistic about your family’s financial status. Focus on the numbers: the amount of aid you’ve initially been awarded, and the amount you’ll need to make that school a feasible option.
If you have any major achievements since your application, feel free to mention those as well. Things like becoming valedictorian or winning a state tournament are highly-impressive and increase your desirability as a potential student.
4. Get Help Reviewing Your Letter
Just as with application essays, someone reliable should review your letter before you submit it. Paying attention to grammar, spelling, and typos helps to show that you take the situation seriously.
Tone is also deeply important here, so ask your reviewer to consider it. In requesting that your financial aid be reevaluated, you’re asking for a big favor from the college and its financial aid staff, and you don’t want to appear entitled or unreasonable. As always, be polite, mature, and professional, and thank the financial aid office for their time and help.
Since this letter concerns your family and your collective financial situation, have your parents or other interested parties check it for accuracy. If your financial situation is particularly complex, it might make sense to have your family’s financial or legal advisor read over it as well, just to make sure you don’t misrepresent the facts.
5. Send Your Letter to the Right Place
For physical mail, double-check the address you’re sending it to; call the financial aid office to check again if you’re unsure. Use clear handwriting or printed labels. For extra reassurance, you might choose to use Priority Mail or another service with features like tracking and receipt confirmation.
As we’ve mentioned, your school may accept some documents via email, but ask them before you do so. Double-check the email address you’re sending them to, of course, and make sure any scanned documents you’re sending are legible.
For any appeal letter, be very clear about who you are, so that your letter and documents are filed to the correct account. Include your full name and applicant or student ID number on everything you send in. If your school has special requirements about which identifying information to include, follow those directions exactly. (Be aware that if any of your documents are in languages other than English, you’ll need to have them translated first.)
It’s a good idea to follow up within a week or so to make sure your information made it to the right place and ask how long you’ll need to wait for a response. Just don’t overdo it; appeals take time, and bugging your financial aid officer excessively for updates will only take away from the time they have to work on your case.
6. Maintain a Backup Plan
A financial aid appeal is simply a request to have your financial aid application reconsidered, often in the light of new information; it’s not a guarantee of a favorable outcome. The college may decide not to increase your financial aid, or to increase it as much as you would like. You need to be prepared for this possibility, especially with the May 1st decision deadline looming.
You’ll need to have some serious discussions with your family about your options. Maybe you’ll need to attend another college. Or, you or your parents will take out a loan. Only you can weigh all the factors and make a final decision.
Financial Aid Appeal Letter Examples
Now you know the steps to filing a financial aid appeal, here are some appeal letter examples.
Appealing based on a change in financial situation
Dear Dean Rora,
When I learned I was accepted into Redwood University, I was ecstatic—I am a first-generation Filipino student and this school has been one of my top choices for years, due to its world-renowned aerospace engineering program. I would love to be able to attend; however, the current aid package makes it financially unfeasible for my family. As such, I’m writing to request a re-evaluation of my financial aid award.
Since applying, my single mother has lost her job as a garment worker in Los Angeles, due to the impact of canceled orders during COVID-19. She did not receive a severance package. While I have tried to make up for the lost income by working two part-time jobs, I’m unable to cover that $25,000 gap as a full-time student, and I will be unable to work as much once in college. As it is, I currently earn only enough to cover our rent ($800/month), let alone daily expenses like food. I wish I could ask my other relatives for help, but it is just me and my mother in the United States.
Because of this significant change, I was hoping that your office could readjust my financial aid award. I am currently expected to pay $2,000 per semester, which is unfeasible given our situation. I am attaching documentation regarding these changes.
Thank you in advance for your consideration, and please let me know if you need more info. I truly hope I will be able to attend Redwood and realize my dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer.
This letter is a good example because it:
- Thanks the college for the chance to attend and reiterates the student’s interest in the school
- Provides specific numbers about the family’s situation
- Gives upfront documentation to streamline the process
- Is polite while conveying a sense of urgency
Appealing based on better offers
Dear Dean Edhouse,
My name is Milo and I’m a student from Chicago who is planning to study International Relations. I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to study at Applewood University, especially because of the many opportunities for fieldwork in the U.S. and abroad.
Over the next few weeks, however, I have to make a difficult decision: Applewood University or Magnolia College. Applewood is my top choice, but Magnolia has offered me more scholarship money. As such, I’m writing to request a re-evaluation of my financial aid award. I understand that your office does not match offers and am not requesting a match. I’d simply like to ask that you consider my other offer when reviewing my award holistically.
To attend Applewood, my family must pay $21,000 per year. For Magnolia, we need to pay $16,000. This is a significant difference for my family, especially since my sister will also be in college at the same time (she is a junior at Englewood University). For your convenience, I am attaching documentation of this offer from Magnolia.
Since applying, I have also placed 3rd in the track and field state championships for the 3200m. After the track season, I ran a half marathon and raised $3,000 for the International Rescue Committee. I know Redwood has a road race team that frequently participates in charity runs, and would love to continue running for social causes in college.
Please let me know if you need any more information, and thank you for your consideration. I hope I will be able to join the Redwood community this fall.
This letter is strong for the same reasons as the previous, but here’s what it does differently:
- Highlights an understanding of the school’s financial aid policies (“I understand that your office doesn’t match offers”) and requests a holistic review
- Updates the finaid officer/dean on major accomplishments that increase their desirability as a student
- Emphasizes fit with the school through their unique resources
College affordability matters a great deal; the best college application in the world won’t be of much use if attending that college is not financially feasible. Thankfully, widespread financial aid and scholarship opportunities exist, and make exceptional colleges into reasonable options for a much greater range of talented students.
If you aren’t happy with your financial aid award, it doesn’t hurt to try and appeal. Just as with applying to college in the first place, you may not end up getting the outcome you want, but if you don’t ask for what you need, you definitely won’t have the opportunity to get it. With a strong, well-researched, professional appeal letter, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to work out an arrangement that meets your needs.
For more information about the financial aid process and getting the aid you need to make your college dreams real, check out these posts from the CollegeVine blog.
- Understanding College Costs: FAQs About Financial Aid in Practice
- Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letters
- Can I Appeal My Financial Aid Award?
- How to Evaluate, Compare, and Leverage Financial Aid
To get more college finance advice, join our free CollegeVine community forum about paying for college. You can ask other students in the same boat about their experiences and request help from our team of admissions experts.