How to write a SAP appeal letter (with an example)
If your college suspends your financial aid, it’s important to learn how to write an effective SAP appeal letter. SAP, or Satisfactory Academic Progress, is a set of criteria that a student must meet to continue receiving aid. These criteria include grades, credit enrollment, and progress towards a degree. If a student does not meet the standards, the school may suspend their aid.
But luckily, schools have a system in place to account for students with extenuating circumstances. If a student faced extracurricular difficulties that prevented them from making SAP, they may be able to keep their aid. Students must write a SAP appeal letter to appeal to continue receiving aid.
Where to file your SAP appeal letter
First things first — you should learn who you’ll file your SAP letter with. Some schools may have length or formatting requirements for SAP appeals. In some cases, you’ll be responding to prompts on a form rather than writing a letter.
So before you begin writing, learn if there are any restrictions or guidelines set by your school. You’ll typically be dealing with your student financial services office. It will probably be the same people who contacted you to warn you about your upcoming aid suspension.
What circumstances justify an SAP appeal?
Only students with approved circumstances can have their financial aid reinstated after failing to make SAP. Each school has a different set of standards, and ultimately it is up to the committee that reads your letter. However, the general set of circumstances that justify an SAP appeal are:
- Serious health problems suffered by the student that inhibited their ability to complete coursework
- Serious illness or injury in the student’s immediate family
- A death in the student’s family
- Struggles with mental illness
- Domestic issues in the student’s home or in their immediate family
What is the goal of my letter?
The principal goal of your letter is to convince your reader that your lapse in performance was due to one of the reasons listed above. Walk your reader through your situation, and explain how it affected your performance. Make sure to emphasize how your circumstance falls into one of the above categories.
After you describe your situation, your goal is to outline your plan to improve. Emphasize that the situation is over or that there is an end in sight. Show that you have been proactive in correcting the situation. If you reached out to professors during the semester to communicate your issues, mention those correspondences.
Outline a plan to prevent the same lapse in performance from happening again. Point out your mistakes during the last semester and how you learned from them. Even if you cannot prevent the extenuating circumstances, show that you will be able to balance them more effectively.
Should I include any other materials in my SAP appeal letter?
If you have official documentation that helps prove your story, you should enclose it with your letter. Notes from your doctor or psychologist, police reports, notes from a professor, or eviction notices could all be relevant. Additionally, if you reached out for help from school officials during the semester, you can include those correspondences. Just make sure to obtain permission from the participants before including them.
What tone should I use?
When you write your letter, try to be clear and concise. Even though you will likely be discussing personal matters, try to remain professional. Discuss what happened in a straightforward matter. Although you should be honest about how the circumstance affected you, you shouldn’t sidetrack your argument by discussing emotions.
Example SAP Letter
Dear Dr. Smith and Esteemed Committee Members,
My name is Leon Melville and I am writing to appeal the suspension of my financial aid package. I failed to make academic satisfactory progress this semester, primarily due to my poor performance in Calculus II and Statistics.
I take full responsibility for the decline in my academic performance this semester. However, I am confident in my ability to meet the College’s academic standards in the future. I was impacted by extenuating circumstances this semester that impacted my ability to keep up with my studies.
I broke my leg halfway through the semester, which resulted in my missing class for two weeks. When I returned to school, I had fallen behind in my courses. Additionally, I was forced to attend physical therapy four times per week. I have enclosed a note from my doctor and my physical therapist that confirm these events.
Before my accident, I had been attending tutoring hours for my statistics and calculus classes. These are subjects that I have always required extra help in. However, once I began physical therapy, I was no longer able to attend these sessions. As a result of my two weeks out of class and my lack of tutoring, I fell behind in class. I’ve included notes from my mathematics tutors to confirm my attendance at the beginning of the semester.
I take full responsibility for my poor performance this semester. I’ve learned that I need to be more proactive and communicate with my professors more if I fall behind. I’ve also learned how important those tutoring sessions are to my performance. I will be sure to attend them in future semesters.
My leg has now healed fully and I do not anticipate any future physical therapy next semester. I believe that I have the tools to succeed in the future. However, I need my financial aid package in order to continue my studies. Without the Pell Grant and my institutional aid, I will be unable to enroll next semester.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Next steps for students
If you are reading this before your aid has been suspended, reach out to your professors now! Even if you won’t make SAP this semester, you should establish a paper trail that you have sought help. This will make your SAP appeal letter more effective. If you have already received notice that your aid is being suspended, take your first steps towards writing your letter. Reach out to the office that suspended your aid and ask about their guidelines for an appeal letter.
Before you sit down to write, it’s a good idea to plot out what you are going to say. Establish the reason why you failed to make SAP as well as a plan to improve next semester. Once you have your content worked out, it will be much easier to begin writing. And once you write your letter, don’t forget to proofread. Ask a friend or family member to proofread the letter to make sure it is clear and concise. Best of luck!