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Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

By Ashley Kilroy · August 04, 2021 · 5 minute read

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Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

If you’ve been denied financial aid from your school or you didn’t get as much as you need, that decision isn’t necessarily final.

A financial aid appeal letter doesn’t guarantee that the college will change its mind, but it can allow you to plead your case and share some information they might not know about.

If you’re hoping the financial aid office will revise their decision, it’s essential to know how to write a compelling appeal letter for financial aid. A few tips, like providing the appropriate documentation, writing a polite, concise letter, and adding a thank you could help in building a persuasive argument. Read on for more details and suggestions for writing a financial aid appeal letter.

When to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

There are a couple of reasons someone might need to learn how to appeal a financial aid award, including not getting the amount they need or 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 and the student’s expected family contribution, which is calculated based on the information provided in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

If you are a dependent student your parent’s expected financial contribution will be factored into your federal student aid award. But just because your parents may have the income and assets to help you pay for school on paper, that doesn’t always mean they will be able to.

Recommended: Independent vs Dependent Student: Which One Are You?

Even if they had originally planned to help out, life’s unexpected twists and turns may have caused something to change since you first submitted your FAFSA form. For example, maybe a parent lost their job or switched to a job with a lower-paying salary, or a medical emergency ate up the cash they had set aside to help you cover the cost of your education.

If you need more aid than the offer provides and you have a good reason to think so, a financial aid appeal letter may be your ticket to helping you get what you need.

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. The full list of eligibility requirements is available on the Federal Student Aid website.

If you don’t meet one of these 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.

How to Write 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.

Being 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, looking for a contact in your school’s financial aid office and addressing the letter to them directly might help. 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 could have a positive influence.

Keeping it Concise

Being clear with your request and how much aid you need, then giving a straightforward explanation of why it’s needed, could help make your letter more compelling. For example, if you need more money, it’s a good idea to be specific on why your need is greater than the amount they initially awarded to you.

If you were denied aid for an issue with eligibility, you might want to explain the reasons 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.

Keeping it clear will also help you keep your letter to one page. Writing a manifesto might not be the solution here. The financial aid office will likely be reviewing multiple letters so it may help to keep the letter concise and compelling.

Proofreading The Letter

After writing and thoroughly proofreading the letter yourself, consider having a trusted friend or family member give the letter a quick read. A second set of eyes could eliminate additional errors. 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 likely make.

What to Include 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. For example, some schools offer appeal forms online or have walk-in hours to address your appeal questions.

If your school doesn’t offer a form, here are some of the things you should specifically include in your appeals letter:

Addressing a Specific Person

Avoid providing a generic address like “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, you’ll want to identify a specific individual at the financial aid office. If you are unsure who to address, reach out to the financial aid office to ask.

Highlighting Specific Examples

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.

Providing Documentation

If you have any relevant documents that can help support your case, you will likely want to include them in the letter. For example, a death certificate, a doctor’s note, or eviction notice can give the financial aid office the evidence that it needs to get a clearer picture of what’s happening.

Stating 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 travel costs.

Adding 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.

Alternatives for Paying for College

Learning how to write a strong appeal for financial aid could potentially improve your chances of getting the help you need. But, if you submit your letter and your appeal is still denied, you may still have other options for covering your 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, Fastweb, and College Board.

Recommended: How Grants, Scholarships, and Student Loans Differ

If your parents are willing to help, they can apply for Parent PLUS Loans through the US 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, though, so if you’re still relatively new to credit, you may need a parent to co-sign the loan.

As you consider these options, take the time to research their costs and terms to make sure you get the best one for you, keeping in mind that exhausting all federal aid options first before applying for a private student loan is ideal.

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 don’t worry, there are no hidden fees.

The Takeaway

Writing a financial aid appeal letter could help a student qualify for additional financial aid. Appealing an aid award won’t always result in an increased award, but writing an effective letter could 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 students have exhausted all other options for paying for college, some may consider borrowing a private student loan. Those interested in borrowing a private student loan can consider SoFi. SoFi offers private student loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents and there are no hidden fees.

Learn more about financing your college education with a student loan from SoFi.

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