Going to college is expensive. Many students depend upon financial aid to provide the money they need to cover expenses like tuition and textbooks. But what should a student do if a college gives less aid than the student needs or turns down his or her request?
Most college financial aid offices have an appeals process. By following this process, it may be possible for the student to secure financial aid that had previously been denied. For students who had financial aid but then lost it, this process gives them a chance to ask the college to reinstate it.
There are many reasons a college might deny or revoke financial aid. If financial aid administrators determine the student's financial status doesn't warrant aid, they may choose to deny that student in favor of others. A student's performance can also affect his or her chance to receive aid. Students who perform poorly may fall below their school's requirements and see their aid revoked as a result.
Students who receive financial aid from scholarship programs and grants may also encounter problems. Some colleges will reduce financial aid to students who receive money from other sources. Students who depend upon the college's financial aid to help cover all expenses may need to appeal such decisions.
A financial aid office may grant a student aid based partly upon that student's financial status. If that status changes, the student may find that he or she needs additional aid. Examples of a qualifying change may include the death of a wage-earning family member, divorce or loss of benefits. The appeal process gives students the chance to request more aid by explaining the situation to the college.
While an appeal letter won't guarantee that a student will receive previously denied funds, an objective and well-structured message may be enough to prompt the financial aid office to reconsider the situation.
Financial Aid Appeal Letter Formats
Most college financial aid offices have their own procedures in place for students who wish to appeal. The process may be different between each school, yet in general, most financial aid offices will accept and consider financial aid appeal letters.
Appeal letters should follow a simple business letter approach. A typed letter will ensure that your message is legible. It looks more professional than a handwritten letter. Avoid using exotic fonts -- a simple letter typed in Times New Roman will make a more positive impact than a sheet covered in flowery script.
At the top of the letter should be the date, the name of the financial aid administrator for your college and the college's address. You'll explain your situation and why you think the administrator should reconsider his or her decision about your financial aid. In closing, you'll include your own name and address. Below you'll find what a sample letter would look like.
January 20, 2010
George Smith, Financial Aid Administrator
University of HSW
123 University Lane
Atlanta, GA 30326
Dear Mr. Smith:
Thank you for the offer of financial aid for attending the University of HSW. However, my family's financial status has changed since the application process.
The XYZ Company recently downsized several employees and my mother was one of those affected. As a result, my family is not going to be able to support my college education to the extent we expected during the application process.
I would be grateful if you could adjust my financial aid offer in light of this information. Please let me know what paperwork and information you need. Thank you for your attention.
222 Oak Lane
Gainesville, GA 30566
Home: (555) 555-5555
Writing a Financial Aid Appeal Letter
When writing an appeal letter, it's important to keep several factors in mind. Try to present an objective case to the financial aid administrator. You should be able to explain your situation and support your case with evidence. Keep the letter short and to the point. In most cases, a single typed page should provide enough information for the initial appeal.
Depending upon your situation, providing support for your case can be challenging. If your college has revoked your financial aid due to poor academic performance, you'll need to provide a good reason for your grades falling below the college's threshold. It's important to be honest when submitting an appeal letter. If your grades suffered as the result of a traumatic event, explain the situation in your letter. If you've discovered college is more challenging than you anticipated, say so. Some financial aid administrators may agree to reinstate your financial aid conditionally.
You may have to work on improving your academic standing without the benefit of financial aid for a time. If you can demonstrate that you're serious about your education by improving your grades, the financial aid office may reevaluate its decision to revoke your aid upon appeal.
In the case of a financial status change, you may need to provide proof to the college in addition to an explanation of your situation. Don't include everything in your initial letter -- just let the office know that you're willing to provide documentation if needed. Many financial aid administrators will revisit their decisions regarding financial aid based upon special circumstances.
If a college reduces your financial aid based upon scholarships or grants you receive from other organizations, you have a couple of options. You can write to the college to appeal the decision yourself. Another choice is to write to the organization that gave you the grant or scholarship and ask someone to write a letter of appeal on your behalf.
Make sure you have someone proof your letter thoroughly before you send it to the financial aid office. Errors and poor organization can influence an administrator's decision to offer more aid.
The Appeals Process
Once you submit your appeal letter, it goes to a financial aid administrator. Most colleges give administrators freedom to decide if an appeal has merit. Procedures vary between institutions but the general process usually follows the same path.
First, the financial aid administrator reads over the letter and decides if the request merits further consideration. Poorly worded or organized letters may be discarded relatively quickly. If the author of the letter fails to present a compelling case, the administrator may disregard the letter. Assuming that the letter presents a valid point, the financial aid administrator moves on to the next step.
In the case of a change in financial status, that step may require additional work from the student. The administrator may contact the student and ask for further documentation. This could include tax returns, earnings statements and similar financial records. The student should hand these over for review if necessary.
The financial aid office administrator will review the documentation before deciding if the appeal is valid. If it is, the financial aid administrator will send a new offer to the student. During busier times in the school year this process may take several weeks.
In the case of a student appealing the loss of financial aid due to academic performance, the administrator must decide if the appeal letter adequately explains the situation. Students who have shown a willingness to improve their academic standing have a better chance of seeing their financial aid packages reinstated. Some financial aid administrators may place requirements on the student ranging from maintaining a certain GPA to seeking a tutor.
The time between an appeal and a response may be just a few days or it could last for weeks. Each college is different. Generally speaking, financial aid offices begin to get busy a few weeks before classes start. Things may not slow down until several weeks after classes begin.
If you feel you deserve reconsideration regarding your financial aid offer, write a letter that's honest and to the point. It's the job of the financial aid administrators to match aid packages to students who need and deserve them.
For more on financial aid and other related topics, take a look at the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- College Board. "Dealing with the Financial Aid Office." 2010. (Jan. 20, 2010)http://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/ways-to-pay/485.html
- Financial Aid Finder. "Increasing Your Financial Aid Package." 2009. (Jan. 20, 2010) http://www.financialaidfinder.com/financial-aid/strategies-for-affordable-college/increasing-your-aid-package/
- Lawrence, Carolyn Z. "Appealing Financial Aid Offers." AdmissionsAdvice.com. April 2, 2009. (Jan. 20, 2010) http://collegehunt.blogspot.com/2009/04/appealing-financial-aid-offers.html
- South Plains College. "How to Appeal Financial Aid Suspension." 2010. (Jan 20, 2010) http://www2.southplainscollege.edu/information-for/future-spc-students/financial_aid/appeal-fa-suspension
- University of Florida. "Appealing a Change to Your Financial Aid Budget." Sept. 10, 2009. (Jan. 20, 2010) http://www.sfa.ufl.edu/receiving/petition.html
- Veeder, Samantha et al. "Financial Aid Appeal Pitfalls." University Business. March 2007. (Jan 20, 2010) http://www.universitybusiness.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=709