Disappointed by your financial aid package? Sometimes students don’t get as much aid as they hoped for. Occasionally, they’re denied any aid at all. Before you give up on going to your dream school, know that the decision isn’t necessarily final.
A financial aid appeal letter allows you to plead your case and share any new information. However, it’s essential to know how to write a letter compelling enough to change minds.
Here we’ll offer proven tips for building a persuasive argument, and a sample financial aid appeal letter template to get you started.
When To Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
At what point in time after you receive your financial aid offer should you send an appeal letter? As soon as possible. That’s because some financial aid is handed out on a first come, first served basis. The sooner you appeal the decision, generally the more funds there will be to draw on.
💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.
Why Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
There are two main reasons why students appeal their financial aid offer: not getting the amount of aid they need and getting denied outright.
The Financial Aid Offer Fell Short
A student’s financial aid offer is based on the school’s certified cost of attendance (COA) and the student’s Student Aid Index, or SAI (formerly called Expected Family Contribution, or EFC). The latter is calculated based on information provided in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.
But a lot can happen between when you file your FAFSA and when you receive your student aid offer letter. Your circumstances may have changed. Some common life changes that can affect your financial aid calculation include:
• Parent’s job loss or switch to a lower-paying position
• Medical emergency or other financial commitment that ate up the cash your family had set aside to help you
• Parents’ divorce
• New member joined the family, through birth, adoption, or guardianship
• Death of a parent
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Not Meeting Eligibility Requirements
In order to qualify for federal financial aid, students need to meet a handful of eligibility requirements. The criteria include being enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree program, and maintaining “satisfactory academic progress,” including a 2.0 GPA. The full list of eligibility requirements is available on the Federal Student Aid website at StudentAid.gov.
If you don’t meet one of the requirements before the financial aid office makes its decision or you lose eligibility after receiving an offer, you may not get the help you need.
Recommended: What Are the FAFSA Income Limits for Eligibility?
What To Say in a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
Before you begin writing your letter, you’ll want to verify if your school has an official appeals application or form. In addition, you can check your school’s financial aid office for details on the financial aid appeal process. Some schools offer appeal forms online or have walk-in hours to address appeal questions.
If your school doesn’t offer a form, here’s a look at some specific things you may want to include in your appeals letter.
Address a Specific Person
It’s a good idea to avoid generic greetings like “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, you’ll want to identify a specific individual at the financial aid office. If you are unsure whom to address, reach out to the financial aid office to ask.
Your case will likely be more compelling if you can provide details about your situation and why you are unable to pay for college. Consider writing a bulleted list so you can provide straightforward facts about your family’s financial situation. A bulleted list will also make it easier to connect details with support documentation.
If you have any relevant documents that can help support your case, you will want to include them with the letter. For example, a death certificate, doctor’s note, or unemployment benefits letter can give the financial aid office the evidence that it needs.
State a Dollar Amount
If you’re asking for a specific amount, consider including a budget breakdown of how you’d spend that money, including tuition, room and board, supplies, books, and transportation costs. (SoFi’s Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money may help with this.)
Recommended: Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money
Add a “Thank You”
You may want to end your letter by thanking the person you’re sending it to. You may also want to express your excitement about attending this school.
Sample Financial Aid Appeal Letter
Person’s name (if available)
Financial Aid Appeal Committee
Name of School
Office of Financial Aid
Dear Name Here,
I am writing to appeal the financial aid offer I received. My proposed package included $00,000 in scholarships and grants, and $00,000 in federal student loans, for a total award of $00,000. However, the amount I will need to cover my cost of attendance this year and living expenses this year is $00,000. I am requesting an increase in student loans or gift aid to cover the remaining $00,000.
Since completing and submitting the FAFSA, my family has experienced a change in circumstances. My father was laid off from his job in February and is still looking for work. He provided the primary income for our household, so our family’s total income has dropped from $00,000 to $00,000 per year.
My family and I would be grateful if you would approve an increased aid amount of $00,000 to help me afford the cost of school this year. I’m thrilled to have been accepted at my school of choice and am eagerly looking forward to starting in the fall.
I appreciate your taking the time to consider my appeal. Thank you very much.
3 Tips for Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
A good financial aid appeal letter can potentially shift your financial aid office’s decision in your favor. Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re writing it.
1. Be Polite
Not getting the financial aid you feel you need can be a frustrating experience. When it comes time to direct your request to someone specific, look for a contact in your school’s financial aid office and address the letter to them directly. If you’ve received some aid, you could thank them for the amount and perhaps explain how much you appreciate them considering your appeal.
It can be difficult to leave emotion out of the equation, but a respectful tone can have a positive influence.
2. Keep It Concise
Be clear with your request and how much aid you need. Then give a straightforward explanation of why it’s needed. If you were denied aid for an issue with eligibility, you might want to explain the reason why it happened. For example, maybe your grades dipped because you were diagnosed with a severe illness, lost an immediate family member, or became homeless.
Try to keep your letter to one page. This is not the time for a manifesto. The financial aid office will likely be reviewing multiple letters, and brief messages can be surprisingly powerful.
3. Proofread the Letter
After writing and thoroughly proofreading the letter yourself, consider having a trusted friend or family member give the letter another read. It’s not always easy to catch errors on your own, and the easier your letter is to read, the better the impression you’ll make.
What To Do If Your Appeal Is Unsuccessful
If your appeal is denied, you may still have other options for covering college costs.
For example, you may be able to qualify for scholarships through your school or a private organization. Check your school’s website for opportunities, as well as websites like Scholarships.com, Fastweb, and the College Board. SoFi also offers a helpful Scholarship Search Tool.
Even if you were denied a federal Direct Subsidized Student Loan, you may have the option of taking out a Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan, which is not need-based. Or, if your parents are willing to help, they can apply for a Parent PLUS Loan through the Department of Education. These loans are also not need-based, and the maximum amount they can borrow is your school’s cost of attendance minus any financial aid you’ve already received.
Finally, you may also be able to apply for a private student loan. These loans are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Loan amounts vary by lender but you can often borrow up to the full cost of attendance. These loans require a credit check, so if you’re still relatively new to credit, you may need a parent to cosign the loan. As you consider these options, take the time to research their costs and terms to make sure you get the best deal for you. You‘ll want to exhaust all federal aid options first before applying for a private student loan.
💡 Quick Tip: Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.
Writing a financial aid appeal letter can help students qualify for additional financial aid. Appealing an aid offer won’t always result in an increased award, but writing an effective letter can potentially improve a student’s chances of getting more aid. A few suggestions to strengthen your letter include being concise, providing supporting documentation, being specific in how you’ll use the funds, and keeping the letter polite in tone.
If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.
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