How to Write a Successful Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Mike Brown Updated on June 19, 2020

Was your financial aid award less than you expected? Has your ability to pay for school changed? Do you think the college may have overlooked something when decided your award amount?

No need to panic. You always have options. And in some cases, one of those options might be to craft a well-written financial aid appeal letter. Here, we're going to tell you how to write one. Bonus: We'll even show you a sample that you can customize.

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Want to cut right to the chase? Click here to view our sample letter.

When you should appeal

Maybe your financial situation has changed — a parent became unemployed or had to take a lower-paying job, or maybe money intended for college is now needed to pay for healthcare. Whatever the reason, you're experiencing more financial need than you did when filled out the FAFSA. 

Or, perhaps aid you were granted was withdrawn. Maybe you were even denied aid completely.

There are any number of reasons why you may find yourself needing to write a financial aid appeal letter. The most likely will probably be attributable to an unexpected change in your personal economic situation. For instance:

  • Unemployment
  • Serious medical situations
  • Divorce

Another situation: the income listed on your FAFSA isn't quite accurate. That might the case if someone's job situation has changed or if a large portion of income has to go toward debt and can't be used for college costs. 

What if you lose financial aid because you've failed to maintain the requisite grades? You might be able to appeal if you've experienced a dramatic life event, such as:

  • A newly diagnosed ongoing illness
  • Homelessness
  •  A difficult pregnancy
  • The death of immediate family member

See also: Could You Be Eligible for More Financial Aid Because of Coronavirus?

4 things to include

Remember that the purpose of a financial aid appeal letter is to request for help. That means it's not a place for you to vent, complain, or make a demand. You need the financial aid office's assistance much more than they need abuse from you! Ultimately, you're requesting more money. This letter is you stating your case to the people who can assist you.

Here are some basic tips that you should apply when creating your letter, regardless of the reason you're writing it:

  1. Be sure to address your letter to a specific person in the school's financial aid office. If you don't already have a contact, consult the department listing on the school's website.
  2. While you're at the school's website, research guidelines for their appeal process. Are there specific forms they require? Following the exact procedure will increase your chances of success.
  3. In the body of your letter, always address the individual by name: Mr. Jones, Mrs. Smith, etc. You want to establish a personal yet respectful tone. Avoid addressing people solely by their title. Be direct, succinct, and courteous.
  4. Note the forms you've submitted to your school, the status of your award, and the reason for your appeal.

See also: We Rank Your Best Parent Loan Options: Are Parent PLUS Loans a Good Deal for Fall 2020?

Tips to increase your chances of success

What does a financial aid appeal letter look like? Here are some aspects to keep in mind:

  • For the sake of clarity and readability, don't get fancy with the appearance of your letter. The reliable block letter format will suit you just fine and make for easier reading.
  • Be up front with your reason for writing. Hint: that's not just saying I didn't get enough financial aid. What is your why? Explain your circumstances and the specific reasons you require additional aid. 
  • Keep your letter to one side of one page.
  • Are you asking for more money from your school or from the federal government? It's an important distinction, so make sure you are clear on that. If any income information reported on your FAFSA has changed, you may be eligible for more federal aid (which, yes, would would do through the school). If you believe that you should be entitled to additional merit aid (for academics, athletics, or similar), you're asking the school for those funds. Merit aid requests may be funneled to the admissions office for consideration. 
  • Provide documentation, if available, that reinforces your appeal. The more relevant information a financial aid officer has, the more likely you are to get a favorable response. The people responsible for judging your appeal are governed by rules and regulations, so do your homework, craft an informed request, and help them to help you.
  • Always thank the person you're writing for considering your request.

Sample Letter:


July 8th, 2020

Ms. Kristen Hopkins
Office of Financial Aid
University College
204 Street Name
City, State  Zip

Dear Ms. Hopkins,

I am Ben Brown, an incoming freshman, and I'm very much looking forward to attending University College this fall. Thank you for the detailed financial aid package. After my application was accepted, my family has, unfortunately, experienced an extreme setback in our financial situation.

Just a day after receiving my award information, my father lost his job. After 30 years at The Widget Factory he was unexpectedly let go. He is — was — our family's main income provider. My mother remains employed, but she works part-time at a minimum wage retail job. Consequently, we are suddenly unable to provide the additional funds I'll need for outstanding tuition, books, and expenses.

It is my sincere wish to attend college this fall, and that is in jeopardy now. I'm requesting a review of my award with consideration of these new extenuating circumstances. Your help is greatly appreciated, and I thank you for taking the time to review my appeal.

Attached please find confirmation of my father's termination, as well as the required financial aid appeal form from your office. If there is anything else I can provide or any questions I can answer for you, please do not hesitate to call or e-mail me. I will respond promptly.

Sincerely,

Ben Brown
1520 My Street
City, State  Zip
555-456-7890
bbrown@email.com

What to do next

Especially ahead of the fall 2020 semester, keep in mind that schools may be swamped with appeal requests. Allow at least a week before following up. Remember to check your spam filter and your voicemail to make sure you don't miss a response.

If you don't hear back, email the person you addressed your letter to. Include a copy of your original letter so they don't have to go hunting for your original request. Keep your followup short, sweet, and extremely polite. A short note will suffice. For example:

Dear Ms. Hopkins,

I am emailing you to follow up on the financial aid appeal I sent to you on July 8, 2020. For your convenience, I have attached my original letter and all documentation to this email. Thank you for consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best, 

Ben Brown
555-456-7890
bbrown@email.com

If you need additional funds

Remember, private student loans can help cover any tuition gaps remaining after financial aid and scholarships. Check out our picks for the best deals on private student loans for 2020

Published in: Financial Aid

About the Author
Mike Brown

Mike is responsible for the editorial and marketing direction of Nitro. He has a history of helping people through his educational background—first as a teacher at the Pennsylvania State University and then through 15 years of development and marketing of education programs. Read more by Mike Brown

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