Tips for Handling Your Student’s Financial Aid Appeal

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Sample

Tips for Handling Your Student’s Financial Aid Appeal

Published July 21, 2019

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Sample

The financial aid letter just arrived at your home – and you feel deflated.

The school your student is most excited about didn’t offer enough money, and now you feel like the Grinch.

Is this it?

Do you have to tell your child the school is a no-go?

Not quite.

Sometimes you can negotiate with a school to get more help.

Knowing how to appeal financial aid is an important part of the paying for college process.

Here’s some information about how to bargain with colleges regarding financial aid.

How to Approach a Financial Aid Appeal

Be Sure It’s a Top Choice School

Appealing for the sake of appealing is a waste of everyone’s time.

Only appeal a financial aid award if you’re absolutely certain that the extra money would cause your student to choose the school.

Part of your financial appeal letter is going to include the fact that this is a top-choice school for your student but the funding is a bit short – make sure that’s the truth!

Contact the admission counsellor and ask what the process is if you want to appeal the financial aid award.

They can give you information that gets you moving in the right direction.

Think About Your Student’s “Hook” for the School

Is there something about your student that makes them especially appealing to the college?

Whether it’s a specific interest in a major, outstanding coursework, or a personal connection, you’ll want to bring it forward.

If there isn’t anything that specifically ties your student to that school, you might rethink whether it’s the best place for them to attend.

They may be focused on it because their friends are going, but that’s not going to cause a school to reconsider aid.

Has There Been a Change in Your Financial Situation?

In a Facebook Live we did with Jodi Okun, she described the 5 criteria that can affect your financial aid appeal:

1.  Family Loss of Income

2. Death in the Family

3. Illness, Injury, Surgery

4. Caring For an Elderly Family Member

5. Extenuating Circumstances  (Situation that is unique to your own family that you could not articulate on the FAFSA or CSS Profile)

If one of the above has happened to your family, contact the school’s financial aid office to find out how their appeal process works so you can better explain the change in your family’s financial situation.

Consider Whether an Error Was Made

Sometimes a school makes a financial aid offer without having full information.

Maybe there was an error on your FAFSA, or there are extenuating circumstances that can affect your financial standing.

These can be some of the strongest arguments for a reconsideration, so look over everything carefully.

Also, pay attention to whether the aid offer matches what you expected from the Net Price Calculator for the school.

If those are far apart, there may be an error – or at least a good reason to reconsider.

Once you’ve looked over all the reasons you have for your appeal, it’s time to write the letter itself.

Sample Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Here’s an example of a financial aid appeal letter.

We’ll take a look at each section individually.

It should come from your student!

“Dear {Name},

I was so excited to be admitted to {school name}, and I’d love to spend my college career there.

This has been my first-choice school during the entire college process and getting admitted was a dream come true.

I’m so grateful for the initial aid offer of {$XXXX}, but after looking everything over I am writing to appeal for a more generous aid package.

Even a modest amount of extra aid would make the difference between going to {School} and having to choose my second-choice option.

Unfortunately, my family would have great difficulty allowing me to attend {School} with the current costs.

I believe my academic strength and focus on electrical engineering support {student’s intended major} my request for a larger scholarship.

Not only are my test scores within the top 25% of your admitted students, but I have a strong desire to pursue electrical engineering {student’s intended major}. This is a challenging major, but I know from my previous studies in AP Physics and other honors classes that I can succeed.

It’s hard to find a great engineering school that is a supportive place for women and minorities. Everything I have learned about {school} shows me that I could succeed and thrive in your College of Engineering – much more so than other similar schools.

I was also accepted into {#2 School}, and their aid package was very generous. {College} is my first choice but given the financial realities I am prioritizing affordability in my selection process. If you can offer even a moderate increase in aid, I would be thrilled to accept enrollment at {College}.

I would be happy to discuss my situation further over the phone or send additional documentation if needed.

My contact information is below.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


{Student Name}”

Analyzing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Let’s take a look at each section of the letter above in more detail.

First, your student begins by talking about how excited they are to attend the school and how long they’ve had their sights set on it.

Express gratitude, not disappointment, for the initial offer.

Regretfully point out that financial realities may change your decision.

Then, move on to discussing what makes your student truly special to this school.

I focused on academics and major in this example.

You can also use other “hooks” that make this particular school a great match for your child.

Finally, discuss the financial realities again.

If you have a better offer from a comparable school, you can mention it.

Your target school may want written proof of the offer.

You can even specify how much more School #1 would have to offer for you to accept if you feel it would help.

This is also a great spot to talk about any financial changes that have happened, such as job loss, additional students coming behind, or other considerations.

As you finish the letter, offer a phone call and additional documentation, if needed.

This shows you’re serious and ready to back up your claims.

Don’t forget to include your contact information as well.

Why This Works

We can’t guarantee the financial aid appeal letter sample (above) will get you additional money.

However, this format gives you the best chance.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who cannot afford school with a given aid package, so simply saying “We need more,” is not enough.

It’s OK to say it, but you need to give the school reasons why your student is worth the investment.

That’s why the hook is so important.

Maybe it’s not academics or a special major.

But it has to be something.

Whatever it is, highlight it so that the school will realize what a valuable addition your child would be to their campus.

One parent in our Paying For College 101 Facebook group shared this: 

“Many times, if you can get additional scholarships from the school for leadership, diversity, type of major, etc. you can stack those on top of the merit ones.

Those come out later.

My daughter has a generous merit package from our state school and will hear from those other ones after January 15th.”

However, make sure those scholarships stack onto current aid rather than replace it.

Most of all, don’t lie.

If an increase in aid won’t make the difference, don’t say it will.

If you need a specific dollar amount to pull the trigger, ask for it.

If they approve your request, move forward with that school!

Timing – When Will You Hear Back?

The key to the process is to communicate with the school as soon as possible.

Not only do they need to know so they can adjust other factors, but you need time for them to make a decision.

Another member of our Facebook group said this:

“As someone who works in admissions at a small liberal arts college (SLAC), I would want to know sooner rather than later so I know where we stand.

However, many SLACs don’t have their appeals process up and running yet because it’s still early.

So, don’t necessarily be surprised if they can’t do anything just right now but maybe in a few months once all admission decisions have been made.

Having a comparable award is always helpful so I could see this being a two-step process for you in a few months once you’ve gotten all of your offers.

Of course, no college can guarantee that you’ll get more money, though, so just keep that in the back of your mind when you go in.

Especially for us small schools, we try to put our best foot forward right away from the beginning.

But it never hurts to let us know where you stand and how you’re feeling.

Good luck!”

Financial aid award appeals take a long time, so you’ll need to make other preparations while you wait.

Set money aside for the initial school payment, get any private loans set up that you need, and take other steps.

One parent in our group didn’t find out about an appeal until late April!

So, be prepared to move quickly – one way or the other – when the decision does arrive.

A lot of families are able to get additional aid, so don’t be shy.

Make sure you appeal the school your child is most interested in.

One parent in our group shared:

“I had to make the call to the liberal arts college my son wanted.

They did give us another $4k, but there were extenuating circumstances and we had to provide lots of financial info.

They gave us an answer in late April.”

And from another parent:

“Have the conversation with the financial aid department.

They did give us a few thousand more.”

[Check out other financial aid appeal sample letters.]

The financial aid appeal process can be exhausting, and frustrating,  but if you are persistent and steadfast in what your message is, you can be successful.








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