If the award you received from your student’s preferred school isn’t enough, you may feel deflated. Is it time to tell your child that they need to move on and choose a school with a better package?
There are times when it makes sense to appeal the financial aid package.
Follow these tips to help you write a letter that gives you the best chance of success. Nothing is guaranteed, but these steps will help.
When to Submit a Financial Aid Appeal
Schools receive a lot of appeals and there are many moving parts involved in awarding aid. Students that are offered aid and decide not to attend may free up money, and that money can be eaten up fast by those in need.
If you plan to appeal, have your student reach out as quickly as possible after receiving the award. This will give you the best chance of getting attention, and it’s possible more money will be available earlier than later.
Do not contact the school and ask to appeal for more money before your student receives their initial award from financial aid. If you haven’t received their award yet, and you think you have completed all necessary paperwork, reach out to the school to get an estimated time frame of when the award will be sent.
Contact the School to Find Out the Financial Aid Appeal Process
Experts recommend writing an email to the financial aid office in order to find out what the appeal process is. Trying to call, especially during a busy time, can result in endless voicemails.
Instead, have your student write to financial aid and ask about the appeals process. While the email does not need to be as detailed or formal as the eventual appeal letter, it should explain that there are additional circumstances and your child wishes to appeal.
During busy times, it can also be helpful to reach out to the student’s admissions counselor for information about the financial aid appeal process. Some schools manage appeals for merit aid through admissions and appeals for need-based aid through the financial aid office.
Every school will have its own process. Some will be more open to reconsideration than others. Be sure to pay attention to the details the school sends you and follow the steps closely.
Have Your Student Write All Communication
This recommendation is rather controversial amongst parents, but we believe that the best thing you can do with the appeal is to have it come from your child.
They are the one who will be attending, and they are the one that the aid package directly affects. The school wants to hear from them.
If there are reasons your student can’t write the letter, for instance they don’t understand all the financial details, then you, as the parent, can write a supporting letter explaining the financial details in more depth. This way, your student is still getting involved in the process and writing their initial letter, but you are providing more details to show the full picture.
Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
There will be a financial aid appeal form that will be required, along with documentation of any change or competing offer. However, the letter is the personal appeal. Your student should share why they feel an appeal is warranted, and why they want to attend the school.
Sample financial aid appeal letters can be helpful resources when formatting your student’s appeal letter. You can use the samples as a guide to create your own appeal letter that is specific to your student’s situation.
Open With Thanks
The first thing to do is acknowledge the award already received and express gratitude for it. Your student should explain how excited they are to attend the school, and how glad they are that the school offers help so that students can afford to attend.
Next, the letter should express regret because the current financial aid package doesn’t allow your student to fulfill their desire to attend the school. Express the financial considerations that make attending the school difficult or impossible with the current aid package.
Of course, these should be strong reasons. Paying for a second home or a parent’s desire to retire are not considered strong reasons to appeal. Illness, death, job loss or an additional child in school, however, can be very strong reasons.
If your student’s GPA or test scores have increased significantly since their initial application to the school, you can mention this in the letter.
Be careful about the language in the letter. Never refer to the situation as a “negotiation,” because financial aid offices don’t negotiate. Instead, be clear that your student understands the decision but feels there are additional circumstances to consider.
Be extremely respectful, and use the name of the financial aid officer if at all possible. Never use the appeal letter to vent frustration or insult the school, process, or officer. That won’t help you win anything.
Finally, include any forms required by the school, along with documentation of any extra expenses. Perhaps the FAFSA didn’t reflect costs your family has from helping ailing grandparents, for instance. If competing offers are in play, you can also include those as documentation for your financial aid appeal.
Say Thank You
Remember that financial aid officers are working their tail off during this time. They are hearing from so many families and considering so many situations, it’s exhausting.
What’s one way to stand out? Send a thank you letter after you get the appeal information. This is the time to be as nice as you’ve ever been in your life. You and your student should be grateful and kind throughout the entire process – this will mean a lot to the financial aid office, even if they can’t grant your appeal.
Even if you get a “no,” you never know when you might need an ally in financial aid in the future. If additional funds become available, the financial aid office may be more likely to remember your student if they were respectful and responsive during the appeal process.
Tips From Parents Who Have Completed a Financial Aid Appeal
Here are a collection of suggestions and testimonials that were shared in our Paying for College 101 Facebook group by parents who completed the financial aid appeal process.
- “The appeal needs to come from the student, not the parent. Also, if you have a higher offer that you want them to match, show it. No guarantees at all.”
- “Appeal before paying any deposits.”
- “Appealed before depositing and got $3,000 more in financial aid and in addition also appealed the merit aid through admissions because my daughters gpa went up so we sent updated third quarter grades and her merit scholarship went up $3,000 also.”
- “We appealed and received an additional $1,000 in aid. Be honest, explain why you need the additional help, note any changes.”
- “My daughter called financial aid and they directed her to the website and the specific form she needed. Her appeal was not based on a change in our financial situation. She just wrote about why she wanted to go there, what she loved about the program and the university in general.”
- “We successfully appealed for an increase in financial aid at UNC last year. They doubled an out-of-state student grant and gave a laptop grant. We used a very similar letter rubric: ecstatic to get an offer of admission. Mentioned new awards and continues to excel in classroom. Thanks for the package they put together. Described new circumstances that couldn’t be reflected on FASFA, more aid would help our decision, comparable school scholarship offers. Offered to meet face to face but via phone preferred.”
Nothing Is Guaranteed
Obviously no appeal is guaranteed to work, but you may be surprised how much extra aid your student ends up with, so it’s good to try! If you have a great reason for reconsideration, don’t hesitate to reach out for an appeal.
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