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How to Write a SAP Appeal Letter (With an Example)

By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: January 26th, 2024
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. In this article we’ll answer some of your common questions concerning this topic and include an example of what your letter should look like!

What is a SAP appeal letter? 

SAP, or Satisfactory Academic Progress, is a set of criteria that a student must meet to continue receiving financial 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 and place the student on academic probation

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. 

Related: All about Satisfactory Academic Progress and how to appeal

Where to file your SAP appeal letter

First things first — you should learn who you’ll file your SAP letter with. 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.

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. 

Also see: How does withdrawing from a class affect financial aid?

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 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

Related: How many credit hours do you need for financial aid?

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. 

Explain your situation

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.

Show the steps you’ve taken and what you have learned

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. Point out your mistakes during the last semester and how you learned from them.

Outline your plan 

After you discuss some of the steps you’ve already taken, your goal is to outline your plan to improve. Emphasize that the situation is over or that there is an end in sight. Outline a plan to prevent the same lapse in performance from happening again. Even if you cannot prevent the extenuating circumstances, show that you will be able to balance them more effectively.

Also see: Do I have to pay back scholarships if I drop out of college?

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. The list below is not exhaustive, but does contain many of the main documents you may want to include. 

  • Notes from your doctor or psychologist
  • Police reports
  • Notes from a professors
  • Eviction notices  

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.

Also read: How to email your professor

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. 


Leon Melville

Next Steps

Next Steps

  • 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 from. 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
  • 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
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Frequently asked questions about writing a SAP letter

What happens if your SAP letter is denied?

Unfortunately, the reality is that your SAP appeal letter may not be approved. However, this does not mean that your academic pursuits are over. If financial aid is your only way of paying for school, then you may not have another choice than to take time off, but that’s okay. During this time you should seek to find scholarships and alternative avenues of funding.

How long does SAP approval take?

Depending on where you go to school will affect how long it takes for your SAP appeal letter to be approved. Some schools may only take two to three  weeks, while some say it can take up to seven. Be sure to ask your school’s financial aid department about the timeline

How many times can you make a SAP appeal?

The answer to this question varies depending upon where you go to school. Most schools only allow you to appeal once per semester. However, some allow you to make separate appeals for various circumstances. Speak with your financial aid office about what your school’s policies are.

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