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 toss your entire Life Plan, 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 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, the more funds there will be to draw on.
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 expected family contribution (EFC). The latter is calculated based on information provided in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.
But just because your parents have a certain income and assets on paper doesn’t mean that money is available to you. Even if your family originally planned to help out, circumstances may have changed since you submitted your FAFSA application. Some common life changes that will 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.
What To Say in a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
Before you begin writing your letter, 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 are some of the things you should specifically include in your appeals letter:
Address a Specific Person
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.
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 of 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.)
Add a “Thank You”
End your letter by thanking the person you’re sending it to. You may also want to express your excitement about attending this school.
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Sample Financial Aid Appeal Letter
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 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. As a result, we won’t be able to cover the expected family contribution needed for me to attend Name of College.
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.
If your parents are willing to help, they can apply for a Parent PLUS Loan through the Department of Education. These loans are not needs-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 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 should exhaust all federal aid options first before applying for a private student loan.
If you do decide that a private student loan is the right fit for your educational needs, we’re happy to help. SoFi offers flexible payment options and terms, and there are no hidden fees.
Don’t miss our related story, I Didn’t Get Enough Financial Aid: Now What?
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 have exhausted all other options for paying for college, you may consider borrowing a private student loan. SoFi offers private student loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents, and there are no fees. For details, check out our Guide to Private Student Loans.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
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