How To Appeal An Offer Letter for More Financial Aid

Your financial aid letters aren’t (always) written in stone. There may actually be some flexibility in the money a school grants you. It may only take a phone call to get a higher financial aid package, or it might require a longer appeals process. If your financial aid is less than you thought it would be, your financial situation has changed in the past few months, or you simply want to see if your top college will match another college’s financial aid offer, follow these tips.

Can You Appeal An Offer Letter for Financial Aid?

Yes, you can appeal and negotiate your offer letter for financial aid in an effort to get more money from a school. Some schools may match financial aid offers from other colleges, for example, especially if you tell them you’d really prefer to attend their school. In fact, one student found that to be the case:

“I had my two top choices, and my second choice, they gave me really good financial aid, better financially than my top choice. So I actually went back to my top choice and I explained the financial aid I was receiving from them and that would be a determining factor for me. They actually bumped up my financial aid to make it better than my second choice.” – Patrick

However, sometimes having a valid reason is crucial. In these cases, the reason must justify your appeal. Appealing because you think you deserve the financial aid or because your parents have refused to pay for your college education are not valid reasons and will get your appeal letter rejected.

THESE ARE SOME OF THE REASONS A COLLEGE MAY CONSIDER VALID:

  • A parent has lost their job or has had to take a salary reduction
  • The earning parent’s income varies from year to year
  • Recent death, institutionalization, disability, or incarceration of the student’s parent
  • The family has suffered a financial disaster
  • An immediate family member is critically ill
  • The parents of the student are incurring high dependent care expenses due to elderly grandparents or a special needs sibling
  • The family believes it will not be able to make the contribution that the college has penned down
  • The student has reached the age of majority and is not entitled to Social Security benefits and/or child support
  • The previous year’s income is not reflective of the family’s actual income and ability to pay for college
  • The family has been a victim of a natural disaster

How to Appeal for More Financial Aid – 7 Steps

Understanding how the appeal process works is the key to increasing your chances of a successful appeal.

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Step 1 – Find Out the School’s Procedure for Appealing Aid

Every college has their own specific procedure for requesting additional funds. Some schools may require you to fill a form and submit supporting documentation. Others may require you or your family to write an appeal letter in addition to filling the form. It’s important that you follow the school’s instructions precisely so your appeal is not rejected.

Check the school’s website for information on how to file an appeal. If you can’t find the information on their site or you need any clarifications, call their financial aid office. Make a list of questions to ask before calling so you can get all the information you need. When you call the office, be sure to get the name and contact information of the person you speak to. This will make it easier to follow up instead of explaining your situation to a new person every time.

Step 2 – Assess your Circumstances

As we said earlier, schools will sometimes only consider your appeal letter if you have a good reason. Special circumstances that may merit additional financial aid include recent unemployment, reduced earnings, homelessness, or end of social security benefits. End of alimony payments or child support, losses due to a natural disaster, or unreimbursed medical and dental expenses may also qualify. Dependent students may be able to appeal if a parent dies or their parents separate or divorce.

It also helps to know exactly how much college tuition and fees you can afford. This will let you assess the full picture of your college expenses and determine how much you need to ask for. Asking for a specific amount could actually increase your chances of receiving it and it simplifies the process for everyone involved.

Even if you believe it’s a long shot, however, it never hurts to ask for more money from the college. But you should still come up with a game plan. Consider why you want to attend the school and how more money would make it a reality for you. Explaining this in a concise and clear way could increase your chances of winning your appeal.

Step 3 – Fill in the School’s Appeal Forms

Appeal forms generally ask for details regarding your special circumstances and other information about your family’s financial situation. Fill in all the necessary details and make a note of the documents you need to submit.

Step 4 – Gather The Necessary Documentation

You may need to submit relevant documentation supporting your appeal. This could include layoff notices, proof of unemployment benefits, divorce or death certificates, or medical bills. Depending on your special circumstances, you may also need to submit statements from a social worker, school faculty or police officer. Make sure you have all the documents ready before you submit your appeal.

Remember to make copies of all the documents to send with your appeal. You won’t get the documents back once you submit them.

Step 5 – Write an Appeal Letter

Some schools will ask for an appeal letter explaining your need for additional aid. How you word this letter is important. Keep the letter short but explicit. It should demonstrate your need without rambling. Limit it to one page or at the most two pages. Be specific about the dates and the financial impact of the special circumstances.

Step 6 – Submit Your Appeal Form, Letter, and Documentation

You’ve filled in all the necessary information, it’s time to submit your appeal. You can submit your appeal by mail, electronically, or in person. Ask the school’s financial aid office about their preferred method. Also ask them about the time it will take them to review and process your appeal.

Make sure you submit your appeal before the deadline mentioned on your award letter.

Step 7 – Follow-up With the School’s Financial Aid Office

If you don’t hear back from the financial aid office in a week, call them to confirm receipt. If they have, ask them if they require any additional information to process the appeal. If they have received your request but haven’t looked into it yet, don’t badger them. They may be backed up with requests and other admission formalities. Urging them to hurry up will do nothing to help your case.

Important Things to Keep In Mind When Appealing an Award Letter

Before you write the letter and send all the supporting documentation, keep the following in mind.

  • Adhere to the college’s rules. Call the school’s finance department and ask them about the right procedure to appeal an offer letter. Follow all instructions.
  • During the phone call, let the student financial aid officer know your concerns in a polite, friendly, and sincere manner. Don’t be demanding. The college does not have to offer students who ask for more financial aid anything. Let the officer suggest how to proceed further.
  • Work quickly and make sure your appeal is submitted well in time so it reaches before the deadline mentioned on your awards letter.

Not all colleges have spare funds. Those colleges that have reserve funds may be happy to oblige to make it possible for you to join their program. If they don’t have reserve funds, they will inform you so you can make other arrangements. Either way, it’s definitely worth a shot to appeal.

Compare Your Offer Letters Before Accepting

Before you fully commit to a certain school, be sure that you compare multiple offer letters to see which school is willing to give you the most bang for your buck. College Raptor makes comparisons simple and easy with our free Offer Letter Comparison tool! Check out how much aid a school plans to give, what your debt might be after graduation, and more.

 

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