How to write a financial aid appeal letter (with example)
Learn about how to write an appeal letter for more need based and merit based financial aid
While all colleges have a “sticker price” the actual cost of attendance will vary for each student. Many students will qualify for need based financial aid through the FAFSA. Other students will students receive need-based financial aid in the form of grants, and some deserving students will also receive merit scholarships to in recognition for their academic, extracurricular, athletic, artistic successes (as well as other talents).
Tools like the Net Price Calculator can certainly help students estimate need-based financial aid, but students will not receive an official financial aid package until after they are accepted (for both merit and need based financial aid).
However, let’s say you get accepted, 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.
This guide will cover:
- Starting the merit scholarship appeal process
- How to write your merit appeal letter
- How to appeal for need-based financial aid
- Financial Aid Appeal Example
- Can you ask for more money from private scholarships?
- What can you do if your appeal is turned down?
Feel free to jump ahead to any of the above sections or keep on reading to learn more about the appeals process.
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 it has been established 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.
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:
- Begin your letter by introducing yourself, where you are from, and your high school.
- You should also reiterate how grateful you are to be admitted to the college and how excited you are to potentially attend.
- Next explain the reasons why you are appealing for money in scholarships–was financial aid not enough? was there a life circumstance that is making paying for college difficult for your family? If so, provide a brief explanation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How to appeal for need-based financial aid
Need-based financial aid is a completely different type of financial aid than merit aid. Unlike merit aid, need-based scholarships are awarded according to a formula that is 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:
- There was a mistake on your FAFSA or other financial aid form
- Your family’s financial aid situation has changed since you submitted your financial aid forms due to dramatically increased medical expenses or a parent loses their job.
In these situations it is absolutely worth contacting the college’s financial aid offie to ask about what can be done. Generally, the office of financial aid will ask you for a letter explaining your change in circumstances, with context and possible documentation.
Financial Aid Appeal Example
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 .
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]
I have also 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 have any other questions!
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 represented 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.
Finally, student loans 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.
If a college accepts you, it means that they want you to attend their institution. This means that they may be open to considering you for other merit scholarship opportunities. For some students, taking an hour to negotiate merit scholarship aid can result in thousands of additional dollars in scholarship per year!