Financial aid •

December 20, 2021

How to write a financial aid appeal letter

Do you think you're missing out on financial aid? Check out this guide from Mos to find out how you can appeal for more aid.

Letter for financial aid appeal

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 2020–2021 school year, 83.8% of applicants received some sort of financial aid.

Unfortunately, it’s up to students to ensure they’re receiving all the financial aid available to them. 

Believe it or not, an estimated $2 billion in financial aid goes unclaimed each year. 

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

The good news is that 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, the reasons why you may want to write a financial aid appeal letter, and walk you through a sample appeal letter.

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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 aid offer letter you’ve gotten based on your FAFSA will cover the details of your scholarships, federal student loans, and need-based aid like grants you'll be able to use to help you cover the cost of attendance at your chosen school.

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

Appealing for financial aid typically involves writing the school a financial aid appeal letter. In that letter, 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 that you’re ultimately able to receive is based on a combination of factors. That combination will include (among other things) 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.

Can you lose your financial aid eligibility?

You may find yourself in a position where you've benefited from federal student aid one year but haven’t been able to secure it for a second year. Your loss in eligibility could be for a number of reasons, including:

  • Poor academic performance or failure to make satisfactory academic progress (SAP) toward your degree 

  • Reducing your hours so that you go from being a full-time college student to a part-time student

  • Your US citizenship gets revoked

  • You go to jail

There are a couple of other situations where you may become ineligible for student aid, but that depends on whether you're talking about grants, scholarships, or loans. 

When in doubt, you should check for guidance on the US Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website.

Financial Aid Eligibility

Reasons to write a financial aid appeal letter 

Let’s say you’ve gotten your financial award letter, and the amount you’re owed is way less than you were expecting it to be. If your circumstances have been impacted in certain ways, you’ll have a strong chance of submitting a successful appeal.

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

Reasons to Write a Financial Aid Letter

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 example, let’s say you accidentally added an extra zero to a family member’s income. This could then go on to 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.

Natural disaster

If you or your family have been affected by some sort of a natural disaster, your school's financial aid office will likely consider a financial aid appeal. 

Examples of natural disasters might include a hurricane, an earthquake, a wildfire, a mudslide, or a tornado.

Medical emergencies

If you or a member of your family has had a serious medical emergency that's affected your ability to meet academic requirements or has hurt your income, it's worth submitting an appeal request to your school's financial aid office.

How to write a 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 chalking up a successful appeal on your financial aid decision, follow the steps below.

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.

How to Write a Financial Appeal Letter

1. Research school requirements

Each college and university will have slightly different expectations and requirements when it comes to appealing financial aid and the sort of special circumstances (or "extenuating circumstances") your school's financial aid office will likely accept as part of your appeal.

Some colleges or universities 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 the 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 the “financial aid department,” you may find more success in writing to a specific contact.

3. Determine how much aid to ask for

During the financial aid appeal process, you’ll 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 doesn’t 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’ll 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? 

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.

What to Write in a Financial Aid Letter

A clear “ask” 

You’ll 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” 

To maximize your chances of a successful appeal, you’ll 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? 

After receiving your award letter, you should submit a financial aid appeal as soon as possible. 

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

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

However, this isn't usually true when it comes to federal aid such as Pell grants and federal loans. 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, applying for financial aid and appealing aid decisions ASAP is helpful if you don’t receive the aid you need.

Financial aid appeal sample letter

If you've been hunting the web looking for an aid appeal letter sample, look no further.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Example

Here's a sample template to get you started:

November 14, 2021

Ms. Nadia Parks

Office of Financial Aid

[University or college name]

[University or college address]

Dear Ms. Parks,

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

Unfortunately, my family has experienced a change in income that’ll affect my ability to pay for school. My mother was laid off due to COVID-19, and she’s 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 my educational 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’m asking for a review of my financial aid award, with consideration of my family’s new financial circumstances. I’m 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 and the requested student financial aid appeal form from your office. Please email or call me if any additional information or documentation is needed. 

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’s important to remember that 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 waiting for the decision, the best thing you can do is 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 isn’t what you were hoping for. 

The process can take as little as an hour and 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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