How To Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Financial aid appeal letters are written to make a case for financial aid to colleges and universities, federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education (ED), state agencies, and individual organizations like private foundations or companies that provide educational funding. This letter is used for either loans or scholarships and can be sent in order to request more money than was originally offered. It can be written by students or parents. Financial aid officers review student financial records to determine how much funding a student requires. The ED has specific regulations as to what qualifies as a “need” and what does not. Financial need is based on the cost of education minus other resources such as grants, scholarships, federal work-study programs, loans from private lenders or the parents, and funds from the college or university. Financial aid officers also review family income and assets to determine how much of a student’s needs can be met with other resources, primarily grants, and scholarships. Financial aid is not awarded automatically; students must make a case for their need by submitting an appeal letter along with financial records such as bank statements and tax returns.

What Is a Good Reason for Asking for Financial Help?

The financial aid appeal letter sample outlines reasons for asking for additional financial aid funds. Keep in mind that the Financial Aid Appeals Committee is primarily concerned with how much funding is needed, not why it is needed. The following are the reasons for appealing a student’s financial aid offer:

  • Financial records were miscalculated or misinterpreted by school officials
  • Financial need was misrepresented to the Financial Aid Office on the FAFSA form
  • Financial aid funds were not used for intended purposes
  • Financial need was underestimated in the Financial Aid Office’s calculations
  • Funding wasn’t enough to pay tuition and fees, room and board, or other college-related expenses.
  • Financial aid offers did not cover all tuition costs
  • Financial aid offers were significantly lower than the cost of education.

Regardless of why you are appealing your offer, it is best to keep your letter brief and to the point. Financial aid appeals are reviewed by committees with limited time availability so there is a chance that your letter could be overlooked if it is too long.

What to Include in the Letter?

Financial aid appeals typically include the following: 1. Information about why a student or parent believes he or she is entitled to additional funding beyond what was originally offered. Financial aid appeals often relate to special circumstances such as a family emergency, significant change in income, medical bills, huge transportation expenses for out-of-town college visits, high cost of living in a certain area, or an unexpected change in financial status.  Financial appeals may also be submitted to explain why a student has not used all of his or her available resources. 2. Financial records from the last few years such as tax returns and bank statements to prove the claims made in the letter.  Financial aid officers may ask family members to sign a Financial Aid Form, authorizing ED officials to scrutinize financial records from the last few years. Financial aid is awarded based on immediate need, not anticipated future income. 3. Standardized Financial Aid Forms filled out completely and submitted even if a student has already done so for the school year in question. Financial aid administrators want to see that students are using all their resources before asking them to take on more debt. Financial aid appeals work best when they are specific and focus on the short-term, not long-term issues. 4. Financial Aid Appeal Letters may also include recommendations from high school counselors or teachers, letters of support from other organizations, or documentation of special circumstances such as abuse, accident, or illness.  Financial Aid Appeal Letters may also include letters from family members explaining why they are unable to help the student financially. For example, if a parent is unemployed or has lost his job due to downsizing.

How To Write One

Financial aid appeal letters should be polite and positive in tone. Financial aid appeals are often successful when students admit their mistakes or offer explanations that blame no one but themselves for the circumstances that led to the request for assistance. Financial aid appeal letters work best when they provide specific examples of what has changed and why. Financial aid administrators want to help students who have encountered unexpected problems, not those who did not anticipate the need for assistance. Financial aid administrators also take into consideration whether students have used all their resources, including loans and grants, before asking them to take on further debt. It works best when they include as much evidence as possible that proves a student’s claims. Financial aid administrators want to see that applicants are using all resources at their disposal before asking them for additional assistance. Financial appeals work best when they are specific and focus on the short-term rather than long-term problems.

The Bottom Line

Financial aid appeals work best when they provide specific examples of what has changed and why. Financial appeal letters should be polite and positive in tone, explaining the circumstances that led to the request for assistance or why a student has not used all his or her available resources. Financial aid administrators want to help students who have encountered unexpected problems, not those who did not anticipate the need for assistance. Financial aid administrators also take into consideration whether students have used all their resources, including loans and grants, before asking them to take on further debt. That said, if you are able to provide compelling evidence of special circumstances or unanticipated changes in financial status will increase the chances that your appeal will be successful. Financial appeals work best when they are specific and focus on the short-term rather than long-term problems.

A financial Aid Appeal letter is a formal request for scholarship assistance made by a student, upon the written recommendation of an Administrator, Faculty member, or Counselor. Financial Aid Appeal letters are usually prompted by exceptional circumstances that have affected a students' ability to continue his/her studies without further financial support from the institution. Financial aid is awarded based on immediate need and not anticipated future income.
Financial aid is an essential component of financing your college education. Financial aid comes in many forms such as scholarships, grants, and loans. Financial aid does not have to be repaid unless the student fails to complete their studies or cannot find a job after graduating from college.
The Financial aid Appeal letter may be based on any reasonable ground that has been determined to be a special or unique hardship. Financial Aid appeal letters usually address the financial need of students who have had an unforeseen loss of income due to fire, accident, sickness or death within their immediate family. Financial Aid Appeal Letter does not include the loss of assistance from other sources such as Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance or Financial aid. Financial appeal letters are based on the financial need factors identified by the Financial Aid office after careful review of Financial records provided by Financial Aid applicants.
The Financial Aid Appeal Letter should include any and all evidence that proves the student's Financial need. Financial Aid appeal letters should not include appeals for Financial Aid to finance a vacation, car repairs or home improvements. Financial Appeal Letters should be specific and focused on short-term reasons for Financial need. Financial Appeal Letters should be sent to Financial Aid Administrators and not other Staff members such as Financial Aid Counselors or Financial Aid Advisors. Financial Appeal Letters can be submitted by students who are currently enrolled at the College, or by students who have been admitted to the college but have not yet registered for classes.
If a Financial Aid Appeal letter is denied, the student has the right to appeal this decision. Financial Aid Administration reserves the right to deny Financial aid for reasons including repeated Financial aid appeals without appropriate documentation or evidence of Financial need. Financial Aid administrators can provide examples of Financial Assistance options available from other sources such as Parents, Faculty members and Financial Aid Counselors. Financial appeal letters should not include appeals for Financial aid to finance a vacation, car repairs or home improvements.

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.