How to write a financial aid appeal letter to request more college financial aid (with a letter template!)

You’ve received your college acceptance letters –but the financial aid award offered to you just isn’t enough. Maybe that’s because your top-choice school has offered you less aid than other schools, or because your financial circumstances have recently changed. Don’t worry – your aid offer is not necessarily final. You can write a financial aid appeal letter to request a revised financial aid package. Here’s how.

Figuring out financial aid

First off: What is a financial aid appeal?

Basically, it’s a way for you to request that your college reconsider their initial financial aid offer.

Why might I write a financial aid appeal letter?

There are four common scenarios for why you might want to appeal your original financial aid offer, and request more aid:

1) You just got admitted, but it’s just not enough. You were thrilled when you received an acceptance letter to your top school, but then less than thrilled when you got your financial aid award letter. Now, you can’t afford to attend without more aid. 

2) You received a better offer at another school. Your top choice school has offered you less financial aid than another school. You want to see if you can use your other offer as a bargaining chip, to negotiate for more aid at your top school. 

3) Your FAFSA didn’t reflect some nuanced financial situation. Maybe your parents will likely earn way less this year because they work freelance and their main client dropped out. Maybe your family has debt outside the United States, or informal debt to family members.

4) Your financial circumstances have changed. Your family now has a different (lower) ability to contribute to your college expenses. Common reasons for this include a family member losing their job, a birth or death in the family, separation or divorce, medical bills, and special needs children. This change might have occurred between when you filed your FAFSA and when you received your original financial aid offer, OR it might occur in the middle of a school year. In this case, you can appeal to have your next semester’s aid raised. 

If you have multiple reasons for appealing, you’ll need to decide how to strategize what to include vs. exclude. (Avoid an overly long letter.)

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Student contemplating financial aid appeal letter

What’s your best financial aid appeal strategy?

What information should I include in the appeal letter?

  • Address the letter to someone in the financial aid office, ideally the Director of Financial Aid. Similar to writing a cover letter, this should be addressed to a person rather than a generic greeting such as “to whom it may concern.” Including the person’s name at least twice throughout the appeal letter gives the letter a personal touch.
  • If you’re a high school senior (rather than already enrolled at the college), begin by stating how thrilled and grateful you are to have been accepted. Be clear about why you want to go to the school, as well as why you are a student they should want to keep (You’re hardworking, you’re high-achieving, etc.).
  • Be honest and specific about your family’s circumstances. Explain your reason for writing, and use numbers if possible. 
  • If you’ve received an alternative (higher) offer, be clear about that. 
  • Attach documentation that backs up your appeal reason. Most college financial aid offices will request documentation anyway, so this speeds up the process.
  • Keep the letter to one page.
  • Thank the person at the end of the letter.

Want a template? Get that here.

Writing a financial aid appeal letter

How do I submit the financial aid appeal letter?

Check the college’s website for more information on how to appeal the award package, as they may have a specific procedure they’d like you to follow.

If no process is indicated, contact the college’s financial aid office. Many colleges will have a specific individual assigned to people with last names starting with a certain letters. Email that person instead of the generic financial aid office email.

Note that you most colleges will ask you for documentation to confirm any claims you make in your letter. Attaching the documentation from the beginning can speed up the process and improve your chances of a successful appeal, because it shows you are proactive and truthful. If you choose not attach documentation from the start, be sure to at least have this documentation ready. 

When should I submit the financial aid appeal letter?

Submit the appeal as soon as possible to give the college ample time to review your request and provide you with a decision. Make sure you consider when your deposit/decision deadline is–and send in your appeal letter at least two weeks before this date.

If you’re deadline has already passed (and you’ve made your deposit), it’s still possible to appeal on the basis of changed financial circumstances, but of course you will have less leverage.

Student on laptop

How long will it take for me to receive an appeal decision?

The timing will depend upon the college, their review process, and how close you are to the deposit deadline. But generally it should take 1-4 weeks. You can contact the college’s financial aid office to confirm how long the process should take, if you’re worried about the timing.

What if they still don’t give me enough financial aid money?

External scholarships might be able to fill in some of your financial gap. You can apply for scholarships based on your location, community service, extracurriculars, merit, and other factors. Make sure you keep an eye on scholarship deadlines and follow all instructions to apply. Scholarships are considered to be free money because you just need to qualify, apply, and wait patiently to see if you’re awarded the money.

You can also check out other options to pay for college, such as finding a work-study job on campus to fund your education.

Or if you just want help understanding your college budget, check out our free College Cost Insights & Appeal product.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Example Template

Get your own copy of a sample financial aid appeal letter here, which you can customize to your specific situation. (We give precise examples on how you might do this.)

Want more financial aid resources?

Check out these blog posts for more information on funding your education:

If you’re ready to apply for scholarships and increase your funds for college, get started with Going Merry! Sign up for your free profile. We’ll match you with scholarships based on your profile, and you can easily apply with the click of a button.

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