How To Write A Financial Aid Appeal Letter

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The Certified Mail 21 Dec 2010

It might not hurt to send your letter by certified mail. That way, you’ll be sure it was received.

Getting denied financial aid can be a terrifying experience. College is an expensive endeavor, and any changes to a financial aid award can mean major changes to your ability to afford an education.

Luckily, when a financial aid crisis arises, there is always a backup plan: the financial aid appeal letter.

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The financial aid appeal letter is your way of asking the financial aid office to reconsider their decision about your financial aid. Nothing is guaranteed—the financial aid office does not have to review your award simply because you wrote a letter. However, submitting an appeal can help them understand your situation.

There are many reasons why you might need to write a financial aid appeal letter. Here are a couple examples:

  • A change in family income: Let’s say one of your parents lost their job. Now, instead of having a household income of $60,000/year, you have a household income of $30,000. You don’t have to wait until the next financial aid application to request that your current financial aid reflect this new change in income. You can write an appeal letter during the semester to request a re-evaluation of your financial aid.
  • Bad grades: So, you didn’t have a very good semester, and your financial aid has drastically changed due to your GPA falling below a certain threshold. Why did you perform poorly? Was there a death in the family? Did you have other circumstances that prevented you from performing better in your classes? An appeal letter is the best way to state your case.

There are dozens of other scenarios that could result in changed or denied financial aid. Regardless of what scenario you are experiencing, you’ll want to write the best financial aid appeal letter possible. Here are some tips to help you do this.

Clearly Explain Your Position

Your financial aid appeal letter should get straight to the point. If there has been a change in income status, state that as clearly and simply as possible.

However, if the reason for your appeal is something more complex (i.e., you failed to earn a certain GPA), then try to be as honest as possible about your situation and why you feel the financial aid office should revisit their decision.

Take Responsibility (If It Was Your Fault)

Speaking of grades, if the reason for your financial aid change was indeed your fault (i.e., you didn’t earn the grades that you were supposed to) then you should be honest about that in your letter. Take responsibility first, and then state why you deserve a second chance.

Even if something tragic occurred (e.g., death in the family), it is important to state that you understood what was expected of you and that you apologize for not meeting that expectation. Then go on to elaborate on the external influences.

Support Your Case With Evidence

While you don’t necessarily have to submit documentation with your appeal letter (personal preference), you can start to build your case in the letter itself. For example, if a family member lost his/her job, then mention the company name and date of employment termination in the appeal letter. This provides more detail for the financial aid office.

Also, mention in your letter that you are willing to provide whatever documentation is necessary to support your case. You may not know what will be needed at the time, so it’s important to mention that you will work to provide the proof that they need to make a decision.

In the end, your financial aid office should be willing to work with you. Just be honest, humble, and clear in your financial aid appeal letter about what went wrong and why you’d like the financial aid office to give it a second look.

Learn more about paying for college at saltmoney.org.

(Photo: douglas_coldwell)

About Diane Melville

Diane Melville paid for her entire college education with scholarships and is the author of “The Community College Advantage: Your Guide to a Low-Cost, High-Reward Community College Experience.” Find her on Twitter: @DianeMelville

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