How to Appeal Financial Aid to Get More Money

How to Appeal Financial Aid to Get More Money
portrait of Tyler Epps
By Tyler Epps

Published on February 1, 2021

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If you receive a financial aid or FAFSA award that's less than what you need to attend your target college, you may be able to appeal your offer. To do this, most colleges require an appeal letter, which is a note written to a financial aid administrator asking them to reconsider their decision regarding your aid amount.

Crafting a good financial aid appeal serves as your best chance of getting the money you need to attend your target school. While successful financial aid appeals are far from a sure thing, the worst that can happen is the financial aid officer says no.

Before you write an appeal, you'll need to determine whether your circumstances actually merit a letter. While financial aid officers may alter financial aid decisions, they won't change your aid amount for just any reason; in reality, only a few situations warrant an appeal.

Common Reasons for Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

You Made an Error on the FAFSA

Some students or their families may make an error on the FAFSA that impacts their award amount. Depending on the severity of the mistake, your school's financial aid officer may be able to offer you a different expected family contribution (EFC), which can increase the amount of federal aid you're eligible to receive.

You Received a Better Award Offer Elsewhere

Another common situation is that you get a better award offer from another school but want your target school to match or increase its initial amount. If you're applying for more aid as a result of a competitive offer, be sure to include the amount of that offer in your appeal letter.

You or Your Family's Financial Situation Has Changed

By far the most common scenario is that you or your family's financial situation has changed since you submitted your FAFSA. Below are some examples of special circumstances that may hinder your ability to pay the initial EFC:

Recent unemployment Income change resulting in lower earnings Death of a spouse or family member Financial burdens from medical bills New expenses from childcare costs Multiple children attending college at once Unexpected expenses for senior care

Financial Aid Appeal Process: Step-by-Step Guide

Once you've determined that your situation merits an appeal, you should begin writing your letter as soon as possible. Many schools have a limited amount of funds and can only offer scholarships and other types of aid until they run out.

Read below for a step-by-step guide on how to appeal for more financial aid.

Since the appeal process can vary from school to school, the first thing you should do is call your school's financial aid office to learn about its procedures and requirements. Some schools require a form in addition to a letter, while others don't require an appeal letter at all.

Once you've figured out your school's appeal process, you can begin determining how much more financial aid to ask for. Carefully consider the minimum aid you'll need to attend the school and provide an exact amount in the letter or form.

Most schools won't consider changing the EFC unless you have proof to support your request. This can include pay stubs, copies of medical bills, or a copy of your federal tax return. Once you have the necessary documentation, you can begin crafting your appeal letter.

When composing your appeal letter, be concise and honest. Other than briefly writing about your excitement to attend the school, only include relevant details that explain why you need more money. The letter should be no more than one page long.

After you've had someone proofread your letter, you can finally submit the appeal, along with any documentation that supports your special circumstances. In general, the letter should be mailed to the financial aid office, though some schools may require you to submit it online.

If your appeal is unsuccessful, it may be time to consider scholarships or loans, or even rethink your college choice entirely.

How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Since many students know little about their family's income, colleges fully anticipate the appeal letter to be written by a parent or guardian, especially if the student is considered a dependent. Nevertheless, every student's situation is different, and some may have to or prefer to write it themselves. In these cases, it's okay if the student is the one composing the letter.

Regardless of who writes it, the goal in this letter is to clearly show that you or your family's financial situation cannot cover the school's cost of attendance. As long as your request is only for the amount you need to attend that school, you don't have to worry about asking for too much — no school will rescind an admission offer simply because a student asked for more money.

Provide Examples of Your Circumstances

Your financial aid appeal letter should include specific examples that clearly indicate how your particular circumstances have affected your ability to pay for college. When crafting your letter, the most important part is to explain your situation in a way that's easy for the financial aid officer to understand. Some experts even suggest using a bulleted list, which can make it easier for the officer to connect any supporting documentation.

Be Aware of Tone and Grammar

The tone of your appeal letter should be formal and assertive, but it should never come across as aggressive. Instead of saying you "deserve more," kindly ask the financial aid officer to "reconsider" the school's original offer.

In addition to being mindful of tone, pay attention to grammar. It's always a smart idea to have someone proofread your letter before you submit it.

Be Genuine and Polite

Above all, be honest and courteous in your request for more aid. Remember that the financial aid officer has significant flexibility in deciding your appeal. The last thing you want to do is come across as hostile or rude. These officers tend to deal with many unpleasant people, so being courteous can go a long way.

As you wrap up your letter, don't forget to thank the financial aid officer for their consideration.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Sample

Sample Letter

July 1, 2021

Cherie Reynolds
Office of Financial Aid
College State University
123 Academia Road
College Town, PA 19104

Dear Ms. Reynolds,

I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Carly Swift and I am an incoming freshman at College State University. I want to first thank you for my admission, as I am thrilled by the prospect of attending CSU for my undergraduate degree in English.

I am writing to you today to inform you that my father unfortunately lost his job last month. As his job served as our family's primary source of income, we are facing significant financial strains. My mother remains employed, but she works a part-time minimum wage job. Consequently, she is unable to afford significant expenses, like tuition and housing.

While I am very grateful for the generous offer of $4,000, it leaves a sizable financial gap that we are no longer able to cover. I will now need a minimum of $7,500 this year in order to attend CSU. This aid would be enough to cover my tuition, books, and on-campus housing fees.

Attached is a copy of my father's dismissal letter, as well as his recent pay stubs, which show the reduction in income we are now experiencing. Please reach out if you require any additional documentation regarding our financial situation.

As CSU is my No. 1 choice for my undergraduate studies, I hope you will reevaluate my financial aid offer and consider increasing my aid for the upcoming year. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.


Carly Swift
425 Learning Avenue

Additional Financial Aid Resources

Feature Image: Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock

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