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How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Financial aid isn’t guaranteed to every college student who completes a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may be denied financial aid or offered far less than you expected. If this happens, you still have recourse—an appeal letter.

A financial aid appeal letter is a formal communication asking the school to reconsider its decision to deny or limit your financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. This letter doesn’t guarantee the school will reverse its decision, but it may help.

What to include in a financial aid appeal letter

If you’re considering writing an appeal letter because you were denied financial aid or received a limited award, you’ll want to include the following information. Try to keep your letter to one page or less. 

  • Personalization. Include the date, recipient’s name, and address at the top. This helps personalize your appeal.
  • Gratitude. Thank the financial aid office for the award offered (if any). If the school gave you a partial award, express gratitude for the assistance, however small it may be.
  • Explanation of circumstances. Explain why you require more financial aid. Break down the details of any extenuating circumstances or financial hardships your family may be going through. Give details as to why the aid is insufficient, and what you need the additional funding for.
  • Explanation of any changes. If your application was initially denied for reasons within your control (late assignments, failing grades, poor attendance), explain what has changed since your denial and how you’re remedying the issue.
  • Documentation. Include documents to support your need for additional assistance. Don’t forget any appeal forms or other paperwork your school requires.
  • Closing and contact information. Sign off with your signature, typed name, and contact information. Make sure the financial aid knows who you are and how to contact you.

The sections below will explain how to write a financial aid appeal letter in these two scenarios:

  1. Writing a general financial aid appeal letter
  2. Writing a financial aid appeal letter for bad grades

How to write a financial aid appeal letter

Now that you understand how to structure your letter, here’s general insight into appealing your award. 

1. Contact the school to find out the process and where to send a letter

Your school’s appeal process may be different, so this is an important first step. Ask for the name and address of the proper recipient in the financial aid office. Putting an actual name on your letter (rather than addressing it “to whom it may concern”) can help personalize your appeal.

2. Determine how much aid you need

What will the aid you’re requesting cover? Do you need help buying specific supplies or paying course fees? Let the financial aid office know how you’ll use the money.

3. Gather any necessary documentation

Your school may require special documentation to file an appeal. For instance, you might need to include proof of any hardships or extenuating financial circumstances you’re experiencing, such as high medical bills or proof of a parent’s layoff.

If you have financial aid offers from other schools, you can include that information as well, asking your preferred school to match it.

4. Write your appeal letter

The appeal letter should be in your own words and voice. Take your time, make it personal, and be clear with your request. If possible, keep the letter to one page.

5. Submit your letter

Mail or email the letter to the appropriate financial aid representative. They may have many appeal letters to go through, so wait a few weeks before following up. 

Financial aid appeal letter example

Here’s an example of a financial aid appeal letter you can reference when writing your own—but avoid copying this sample exactly.

If you aren’t looking for advice on writing an appeal letter for poor grades, skip ahead to our section on tips for writing your letter.

Financial aid appeal letter example

How to write a financial aid appeal letter for bad grades 

Making satisfactory academic progress (SAP) is often a condition of receiving federal financial aid. SAP means a “C” average in your classes; otherwise, your financial aid may be restricted. 

If your grades fell due to serious extenuating circumstances, such as the death of a family member, a severe illness, or another hardship, you could file a SAP appeal with your financial aid office. Here’s what the process might look like. 

1. Contact the school to find out where to send a letter

Reach out to your school’s financial aid office, just as you would with a general financial aid appeal letter. Find out the appropriate recipient and their address so you can personalize your SAP appeal. 

2. Gather any necessary documentation

If your family has endured hardship, such as a severe illness, or you’ve struggled with your health, it’s important to gather documentation to support your case. Send any related documentation as an attachment to your SAP appeal letter.

3. Write your SAP appeal letter

Be apologetic, and clearly explain the circumstances that led to your poor academic performance. Discuss the steps you’re taking to rectify the situation, such as getting medical assistance for health conditions or working with a tutor. The appeal letter should be in your own words and, ideally, a page or less.

4. Submit your letter

Once you’ve collected your documentation and edited your letter, mail or email it to the financial aid representative. You may need to wait a couple of weeks for a response, but if you don’t hear anything within that time frame, make a note to follow up. 

SAP appeal letter example

Here’s what a SAP appeal letter might look like.

SAP appeal letter example

6 tips for writing a successful letter

If you need to file a financial aid appeal or SAP appeal, here are six tips for writing a successful letter. 

  1. Be professional. You’re asking the school to reverse its decision, so you don’t want to sound demanding.
  2. Address the right person. Research who will be reading your appeal letter, and address it to them.
  3. Get to the point quickly. School financial offices deal with thousands of students each year, so make sure you succinctly explain the situation.
  4. Explain the situation clearly. Whatever the mitigating situation, outline it objectively.
  5. Take responsibility, if necessary. Take responsibility if the situation that caused the school to limit your financial aid was your fault—such as failing out of school. Express your remorse, and outline how you plan to correct the mistake.
  6. Write well and proofread. Proofread for content and proper English, and send your letter right away.

Reasons to write a financial aid appeal letter 

You might write an appeal letter to your school’s financial aid office for several reasons, including:

  • The aid offered won’t cover the school expenses you expect to incur.
  • Your family’s finances have changed since your initial financial aid application.
  • Another school has offered you more aid, and you’d like your preferred school to match.
  • You made an error filing your FAFSA that might have affected your award.
  • You were denied financial aid due to academic performance and are experiencing hardship, injury, trauma, or illness.

You can also write an appeal letter if you just hope to get additional financial assistance. Be sure to explain how this aid would help you achieve your educational goals. 

What to do if your appeal is denied 

It’s possible your financial aid appeal will be denied. If so, you may have other options to pay for your college education, but it will require more research and effort. Consider the following options if you need additional financial assistance.

Scholarships and private grants

Be sure to consider any opportunities for free money you may have overlooked. If your circumstances have changed, you might meet eligibility criteria for scholarships and grants that you didn’t before. Many companies and organizations offer scholarships and private grant funding. 

Individual scholarships and grants have their own criteria, deadlines, and processes, so you’ll need to do research and follow through with the ones you qualify for.

Private student loans

Unlike federal loans, private student loans come from private banks, online lenders, and credit unions. You may need a cosigner with good credit to qualify. If you don’t have a cosigner, you’ll likely need excellent credit and a history of stable income yourself—or consider student loans available without a cosigner.

Should you hire a financial aid consultant?

A financial aid consultant could help you and your family navigate the appeal letter process, but many charge for their services

If you’ve been denied financial aid, submitting an appeal letter without a consultant is often the best first step. In addition, if the school sees you can afford a financial aid consultant, it could deny your appeal.