Between the time you file your FAFSA and receive your student aid offer letter, a lot can happen. It’s possible that new circumstances have impacted your ability to pay for education. Perhaps you believe the institution overlooked something when determining your reward amount. Perhaps your student aid offer was simply far lower than you expected.
There’s no need to panic. You always have choices. One of these choices is to write a strong financial assistance appeal letter. We’ll show you how to write one right here.
Perhaps your financial situation has changed because a parent lost his or her work or had to take a lower-paying job, or money set aside for college is now needed to cover a significant health crisis. Perhaps the assistance you received was withdrawn. Perhaps you were absolutely denied assistance.
There are numerous reasons why you might need to write a financial aid appeal letter. The most likely cause will be an unanticipated shift in your personal financial status. As an example:
- serious medical situations
Another possibility is that the income on your FAFSA is incorrect. That could be the case if a person’s job situation has changed or if a big percentage of their income is required to go toward debt and cannot be used for college expenses.
What if you lose your financial help because you didn’t keep the required grades? You may be allowed to file an appeal if you have had a dramatic life event, such as:
- a newly diagnosed ongoing illness
- the death of an immediate family member
Keep in mind that the objective of a financial aid appeal letter is to solicit assistance. That is, it is not a place to vent, criticize, or make a demand. Finally, you’re asking for extra money and need to find a way to convey your case clearly yet nicely to those who can help you.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind when drafting a letter, regardless of the reason:
- Be sure to address your letter to a specific person in the school’s financial aid office. If you don’t already have a contact, consult the department listing on the school’s website.
- While you’re on the school’s website, research the guidelines for their appeal process including any specific forms or documentation they may require. Following the exact procedure will increase your chances of success.
- In the body of your letter, always address the individual by name: Mr. Jones, Mrs. Smith, etc. You want to establish a personal yet respectful tone. Avoid addressing people solely by their title. Be direct, succinct, and courteous.
- Note the forms you’ve submitted to your school, the status of your award, and the reason for your appeal.
How does a financial aid appeal letter appear? Here are some things to consider:
- For the sake of clarity and readability, don’t get fancy with the appearance of your letter. The reliable block letter format works fine and is easier to read.
- Be up front with your reason for writing. That doesn’t mean just saying ‘I didn’t get enough financial aid.’ What is your why? Explain your circumstances and the specific reasons you require additional aid.
- Keep your letter to one side of one page.
- Are you asking for more money from your school or from the federal government? It’s an important distinction, so make sure you are clear on that. If any income information reported on your FAFSA has changed, you may be eligible for more federal aid (which still goes through the school). If you believe you should be entitled to additional merit aid (for academics, athletics, or similar), you’re asking the school for those funds. Merit aid requests may be funneled to the admissions office for consideration.
- Provide documentation, if available, that reinforces your appeal. The more relevant information a financial aid officer has, the more likely you are to get a favorable response. The people responsible for judging your appeal are governed by rules and regulations, so do your homework, craft an informed request, and help them to help you.
- Always thank the person you’re writing for considering your request.
While intimidating, the college assistance application is inevitably restricted in breadth and does not provide a true picture of many families’ financial circumstances, especially in these difficult times. As a result, colleges are granted leeway in assessing families’ specific circumstances when giving both government and institutional help. Consider whether you have any of the following special circumstances that would justify an appeal to the Financial Aid Offices for special consideration:
- Loss of Income: This year’s aid application was based upon your 2021 income. Have you lost your job or experienced a pay cut since then?
- Change in Household: Have you become separated, divorced, or experienced a death in the family?
- Ending Child Support: Was child support reported as part of your 2021 income, yet that support will be ending soon—when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school?
- Artificially Inflated Income: Did you sell off stocks in 2021, resulting in a large capital gain on your tax return? Or did you experience an unusually high bonus or severance package in 2021 that was not repeated in 2022, and is unlikely to be repeated in future years?
- Medical Expenses: Was your household recently faced with particularly high out-of-pocket medical or dental costs? Or do you regularly pay high bills associated with the care of a special needs child?
- Siblings’ Private School: Do you pay private elementary or secondary school tuition for the college applicant’s younger sibling(s)?
- Extended Family Support: Do you have elder care costs for an aging family member, or do you send money overseas to support the extended family?
- Natural Disaster: Have you had to undertake substantial home repairs at a significant out-of-pocket cost due to an act of nature?
- Parents’ Educational Costs: Are you a parent who is currently enrolled in college, or are you still paying back student loans of your own?
- Better Offers: Has your child received better scholarship offers from other schools or been accepted to less expensive colleges?
While not an exhaustive list, the conditions listed above are among the most prevalent reasons for appealing a financial aid offer. Consider whether any of the above or any other situations not mentioned, apply to your family and have a substantial impact on your capacity to pay for college. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to challenge your child’s financial aid offers. Put your request in writing to the universities under consideration, keeping in mind that Financial Aid Offices like facts, figures, and paperwork, so be thorough in presenting your case.