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How to appeal your financial aid award

August 07, 2020

If you get a financial aid award letter, you may think that’s the last and final offer. That is certainly not the case. You can appeal that award.

There’s a formal process you need to go through so that you have the potential to increase that award so that Financial Aid administrators can exercise what they call “professional judgment” to perhaps increase their word and make the cost of college less for you.

To be sure negotiating a financial aid award is not like buying a car. The financial aid administrator at colleges wants to see specific reasons why you feel more money is required. Those could include medical issues, the death or disability of the student’s parents, a job loss for a significant financial reversal that was beyond your control.

But a financial aid appeal can also be done in a situation where you might’ve received a financial aid award that is larger from another college. There’s no reason not to offer a copy of that aid letter as part of your appeal.

Tips for writing an award letter:

  1. Check with the school’s financial aid office to learn more about their appeals process. Make sure you find out who the right person is to address your letter to, and if that school has any special requirements.
  2. Make sure that the letter comes from the student and not the parents.
  3. Make sure that the letter conveys your enthusiasm for being accepted at that college, and how excited you are to attend.
  4. Be direct and concise. Try to keep the letter to one page if possible.
  5. Briefly talk about why you believe the school is a great fit for you, what you plan to study, and how it will prepare you for what you believe you will be doing when college is over.
  6. If your financial circumstances have changed, it would make sense for you to utilize a financial aid calculator such as the one on the College Board website to recalculate a rough estimate of what your expected family contribution would be now compared to what it was when you filled out your aid forms originally.
  7. In bullet point form, summarize specifically why your situation now requires more financial aid, and give them information about how much more you were looking for. What you should also mention is that if that amount is offered, you would be willing to enroll.

For more tips, see my source article from US News.

Finally, it’s important that you document everything! If need be, attach copies of W-2 forms, check stubs, or any other information that you think would help support your case. If you feel you need help reviewing the offer letters you received, please feel free to reach out to us.