Financial Aid

3 Tips for Financial Aid Appeals

A financial aid appeal doesn't have to be a daunting process. Equip yourself with the know-how to get it done.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

March 07, 2022

3 Tips for Financial Aid Appeals
Learn the steps you can take to appeal a financial aid package.
By now, you’ve made your final college decision, but you may still have questions about how to pay that tuition bill once it’s time. Fortunately, there are options for students and families who may not be able to afford the education that they once thought possible. Financial aid administrators are able to change their initial financial aid offer through an appeals or professional judgment process. Though these appeals are typically reserved for extreme cases, students can sometimes even negotiate their scholarship offers.

1. Assess your circumstances.

If your family has fallen under financial hardships, the school does not expect you to pay with your existing financial aid package. These special circumstances include, but aren’t limited to, job loss, unexpected medical bills or a parent’s death.
Additionally, though the FAFSA attempts to provide a complete picture of your financial obligations, it doesn’t take into account conditions like disabled siblings or parents that require medical or occupational therapy, which also fall under the realm of a possible appeal to your financial aid package. At this time, you can also “negotiate” your scholarships or merit aid. If you feel you deserve more or were given more scholarship money from a similar institution, you can always use that as leverage to make a case for more scholarship dollars. However, treat this particular request with care and tact. Don’t use the term “negotiate;” simply ask financial aid officers if anything can be done to further compensate your merit achievements.

2. Contact the financial aid office at your institution.

Whether you’ve just made your final college decision or you’re about to pack up for the dorms, it’s never too late to appeal your financial aid decision. You can even request an appeal in the middle of the school year. Contact the financial aid office via phone call or letter; do not email. This is a personal plea for an appeal so you need to make it as personable as possible. If you write a financial aid appeal letter, detail the circumstances and provide evidence to go along with your claims. However, if you call into the office, it may be best to set up an appointment either over the phone or in-person to discuss the change in finances at length.

3. Be prepared, open, and willing to compromise.

When you have conversations with financial aid officers about the change in financial circumstances, provide documentation, like unemployment benefits or medical bills. You’re making a case for a new financial aid package, and you need to prove that you need it. Finally, financial aid officers are helpful, knowledgeable staff at universities who work hard to ensure that paying for school is as feasible as possible for all students. You’ll get a lot further in your appeals if you see the financial aid officer as a partner and not an adversary. If you are open and appreciative of their help, financial aid administrators are more likely to do everything possible to make paying for school easier for you and your family.

File the FAFSA to Make a Financial Aid Appeal

If you find yourself needing to appeal your award package, you should do so sooner rather than later. Colleges and universities are still using COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government to increase financial aid packages for students in the form of emergency financial aid grants. However, many colleges will likely be offering these on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you haven’t even completed the FAFSA yet, don’t worry. You still have time. Try to complete it as soon as possible. You will receive your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) within 3 – 5 days, and the Department of Education will then send your Student Aid Report (SAR) to the schools you’re considering. Within a few weeks, you should receive your financial aid award letter from the colleges and universities you’re interested in. If the numbers don’t add up, that’s when you would begin the financial aid appeal.

Search for Scholarships to Bridge the Gap

Once you’ve received your financial aid award letter, you may notice that there is a gap between what you can afford to pay and what your college costs. Even with a financial aid appeal, you may find that there is still that gap. This is why it’s paramount for students to continue the scholarship search past the senior year of high school. There are thousands of scholarship opportunities for college students, so continue to apply to 1 – 2 scholarships per week. Make sure that your Fastweb profile is updated frequently so that you can find scholarships that you qualify for. Paying for college is possible through a variety of resources. Make sure you’re maximizing your efforts by filing the FAFSA, talking with financial aid administrators, and continuing your scholarship search throughout your higher education experience.

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