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    How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter (With Example)

    By Will Geiger

    Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

    Full Bio

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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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: June 17th, 2024
    How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter (With Example)

    Let’s say you get accepted to college, but the financial aid package does not work for you and your family. Did you know that many colleges will allow you to submit a financial aid appeal letter to be considered for more financial aid and scholarships?

    When I worked in college admissions, I was a part of our college’s “scholarship appeal committee” where I helped evaluate various appeals for more financial aid and merit scholarships.

    Related: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    Jump ahead to:

    Feel free to jump ahead to any of the above sections or keep on reading to learn more about the appeals process. Students should also thoroughly review their financial aid award letter to understand what types of aid the college offered them.

    Recommended: How to read a financial aid award letter (with examples)

    Starting the merit scholarship appeal process

    Before you begin thinking about the merit scholarship appeal process, you should make sure that the college or university actually offers merit scholarships. If the institution does not offer merit scholarships, this is a nonstarter (a quick review of their admissions and financial aid website should tell you whether they do).

    Once you know that the college does offer merit scholarships, you can inquire about the merit scholarship appeal process and whether they offer it. You can either call the admissions office or email the admissions officer responsible for your region. If they say that there is a process, you can start working on your appeal letter.

    Related: How to get student rent assistance

    How to write your merit appeal letter

    First things first, let’s talk about how you can write a successful merit appeal letter. A successful letter is all about making your case to the admissions officer.

    Here is our step-by-step process for writing a merit appeal letter:

    1. Begin your letter by introducing yourself, where you are from, and your high school.
    2. You should also reiterate how grateful you are to be admitted to the college and how excited you are to potentially attend.
    3. Next explain the reasons why you are appealing for money in scholarships–did you receive need-based financial aid? Perhaps you did not receive enough need-based financial aid? Or maybe there was a life circumstance that’s making paying for college difficult for your family? If so, provide a brief explanation.
    4. Have you accomplished anything significant academically/extracurricularly since you applied? This would be a good time to mention that. Same goes for any new grades/test scores.
    5. Do you have more generous merit scholarship offers from other schools? Include the offer letters along with your note. While this may seem a bit crass, it helps give the admissions office context of where you are coming from.
    6. Finally, you should conclude the letter by thanking the admissions officer for their time and consideration. You can also restate your interest in the college and why you hope to attend.

    Quick Tip

    The earlier you can submit your letter, the better. Schools may have more discretionary funding available if you submit earlier, and it will leave you with more time to negotiate or consider your other options.

    Related: Why didn’t I receive financial aid?

    How to appeal for need-based financial aid

    Need-based financial aid is a completely different type of financial aid than merit aid. Colleges award need-based scholarships according to a formula dictated by your family’s financial situation. This means that there is very little (if any) wiggle room for how colleges award need-based financial aid.

    With this said, there are two ways that you may be able to receive a reevaluated need-based financial aid package:

    1. There was an error on your FAFSA or other financial aid form (like the CSS Profile)
    2. Your family’s financial aid situation has changed since you submitted your financial aid forms. Two of the most common reasons that this can happen include dramatically increased medical expenses or a parent loses their job. However, there may be other situations that could impact a family’s financial situation.

    In these situations it is absolutely worth contacting the college’s financial aid office to ask if there is any possibility of an adjusted aid package. Generally, the office of financial aid will ask you for a letter explaining your change in circumstances, with context and possible documentation.

    Is there any harm to appealing for more financial aid?

    When a need-based financial aid appeal is filed, the financial aid officers will examine the entire financial aid application again. In this second, careful review, it is possible that the financial aid officers might see something that could cause the award letter to change for the worse. While this is rare, it is important to know that financial aid appeals can impact your financial aid positively and negatively.

    Advice from an admissions professional



    Do not be afraid to ask for what you need. Most colleges and universities want to do what they can to make their education affordable. Don’t be discouraged by cost–there are more than one or two ways to pay for your college education.

    Christina Labella | Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Manhattanville University

    Financial aid appeal letter sample

    Below you will find a financial aid appeal letter sample that you can use as an outline when writing your own appeal letter.

    Dear [Ms. Gomez],

    My name is [Will Geiger] and I am a senior at [Manasquan High School] in [Manasquan, NJ]. I was so excited to be accepted to [Wake Forest University] as a member of the class of [2024]. 

    However, as I weigh my college options, affordability is an important factor for me. [Wake Forest University] is a top choice college for me. [Include 2-3 reasons why the college is a good fit].

    I am writing to ask to be considered for any merit scholarship opportunities. [Include 2-3 academic or extracurricular updates from this year]. 

    I have been lucky enough to receive the following scholarships from some other colleges:

    [Specific colleges and award amounts]

    Additionally, I have attached the actual award amounts.

    Nonetheless, I want to attend [Wake Forest University] to study [insert major] and can’t wait to study [insert details about specific classes, programs, or professors that you hope to experience at the college]. With my [insert major] degree, I want to go into [insert job or ambition].

    Thank you for the opportunity to be reconsidered for additional merit scholarship opportunities. I am honored to be accepted at [Wake Forest University] and hope to be a member of the freshman class.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions!

    Best,

    Will Geiger

    Can you ask for more money from private scholarships?

    Private scholarships are almost always awarding a very fixed amount of money so it is unlikely that they are going to be considering appeals. This is unlikely to be a winning strategy for students. Of course, with billions of dollars in scholarship money available each year, nothing should stop you from finding and winning more scholarships!

    What can you do if your appeal is turned down?

    Once you have exhausted the appeals process and have determined that your financial aid forms accurately represent your family’s financial situation your next best move is to apply for more scholarships and consider more affordable options on your list.

    There are still many scholarships available for current high school seniors. Additionally, you should continue to apply for scholarships once you are in college (there are a number of scholarships available for college freshmen).

    In addition to scholarships, you may also qualify for federal work study, which is essentially a part time job to help pay for educational expenses.

    If your financial situation simply won’t permit you to accept the college’s offer, there are many other options available. Coding bootcamps, certificate programs, and community college can all help you land a higher-paying job. These alternatives typically take a fraction of the time and cost of traditional college.

    Finally, student loans or Income Share Agreements can be a last resort for paying for college. Students should consider all of their federal student loan options before considering any private student loans.

    Recommended: How to apply for student loans

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Being accepted by a college means they want you to join their institution
    • As a result, they may be open to considering you for additional merit scholarships
    • Taking an hour to negotiate merit scholarship aid could result in thousands of dollars in scholarships down the line
    • Financial aid appeals will not result in your admission being rescinded

    Frequently asked questions about financial aid appeal letters

    Will a college rescind my admission if I ask for more financial aid?

    Colleges will not rescind your admission purely because you ask for more financial aid. As long as you are cordial in your request letter, there should be no effect on your admissions decision. Typically, the best-case scenario for a financial aid appeal is an increase in aid, and the worst-case is that nothing happens. So, in other words, as long as you are thoughtful and polite in your request, you have nothing to lose.

    Could I lose my financial aid if I file a financial aid appeal?

    Theoretically, it is possible that a re-review of your finances could lead to a reduction in your financial aid package if the financial aid officers overlooked a factor on their first time around. That being said, this is an extremely rare case, and most students have no cause to worry about it.

    How do I ask for more financial aid from a college?

    The first step in this process is to decide which type of additional financial aid you’d like to apply for. One option is to request additional need-based aid. This typically involves writing a letter explaining a discrepancy or change in your family’s financial situation that was not reflected in your FAFSA and/or CSS Profile. You’ll want to reach out to your school’s financial aid office to learn the exact process for writing this letter (who to address it to and where to send it).

    If you’re applying for additional merit-based aid, you’ll probably also have to write a letter, though you’ll address it to different people. In this case, you’ll probably reach out to the admissions office to see who to send the letter to, or if they even accept this type of letter.

    What if I can't afford my financial aid package?

    If you can’t afford your financial aid package, a financial aid appeal letter is a great option. You can apply for additional need-based or merit-based aid to try to make the college’s offer work for your financial situation. If this is unavailable to you, you can look into applying to external scholarships, taking out additional loans, or consider attending a less expensive school.

    What are some valid reasons for a financial aid appeal?

    Some valid reasons to write a financial aid appeal include: 
    • A significant change in your family’s financial situation
    • Recent unemployment
    • High medical related expenses
    • Changes in family size or dependency status
    • Other extenuating circumstances

    How long does it take to receive a response to a financial aid appeal letter?

    The amount of time it takes to receive a response to a financial aid appeal letter varies depending on the institution and circumstances surrounding the letter. However, in general it should take around a few weeks to receive a response. If you have not received a response after a few weeks, contact the financial aid office at the institution in question.

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