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 and your financial aid award letter, but it’s not 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

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. 

See letter template for this scenario.

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. 

See letter template for this scenario.

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.

See letter template for this scenario.

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 college, even during a school year (After all, accidents happen anytime!). In this case, you can appeal to have your next semester’s aid raised. 

See letter template for this scenario.

Student contemplating financial aid appeal letter

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.
  • Keep the letter to one page.
  • Thank the person at the end of the letter.

Skip to the templates at the end of this article, for examples of financial aid appeal letters.

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. Then, contact the college’s financial aid office to confirm with someone via email or phone to ensure you’re following the right steps in submitting your financial aid appeal letter.

Note that you most colleges will ask you for documentation to confirm any change in your family’s financial circumstances. 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.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Examples (and what to include)

Check out these examples of financial aid appeal letters, including four scenarios. (Visit this link to download and customize these letters to suit your situation.)

Scenario 1. When You Just Didn’t Get 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. You can’t afford the school without more aid.

Remember to: Be honest that this financial aid package will not cover your tuition– and explain why. Get specific about your financial situation. Numbers are good.

Your financial aid appeal letter example:

[Mrs. Johnson],

My name is [Charlie Jones], and I’m a high school senior attending [High School] in [City, State]. I feel honored and thrilled to have recently been admitted to the [University of Higher Education], as it is my number one choice.

However, I’m concerned about my ability to finance my college education at your school, so I am writing to respectfully request an adjustment to my financial aid award.

To be clear, I would love to attend [University of Higher Education]. [INSERT TWO CLEAR REASONS YOU’RE INTERESTED.] But as part of a [GENERAL CHARACTERIZATION OF HOUSEHOLD, e.g. “low-income household,” “single-parent household”], I don’t think we can afford it.

Here’s my financial situation: 

[EXPLAIN IN DETAIL WHY YOUR FAMILY IS STRUGGLING FINANCIALLY – This should include specific numbers, e.g. “Because my mother is disabled, we rely solely on my father’s income. He works as a mechanic for $18.00 an hour. He works six days a week, 12-3 hours hours per day. This means his monthly income is $xx,xxx, but only $xx,xxx after taxes. As a family of five, our basic household expenses are $x,xxx for rent and utilities, $x,xxx for car payment, $x,xxx for groceries– leaving only $xx,xxx for everything else.]

As you can see, this situation doesn’t leave much room to pay the [$xx,xxx] effective cost of attending [University of Higher Education].

I believe wholeheartedly that I would thrive at [University of Higher Education], as well as make a valuable contribution to the student body. [ONE SENTENCE ABOUT WHY YOU’RE GREAT – e.g. “At high school, I maintained a 3.9 GPA while serving on the leadership teams of 2 student clubs and running cross-country.”] I’d love to be able to similarly commit to the  [University of Higher Education] experience. 

I appreciate your time in reconsidering my financial aid award. Please let me know if you need additional documents, information, or to answer questions pertaining to my financial aid appeal request.

Kind regards,
[Charlie Jones]

Scenario 2. When 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.

Remember to: Get specific about your other offers–including the numbers that you want your top choice school to match (If they offer you better aid, but the total cost of attendance is still much higher, ONLY quote the cost of attendance). Also attach proof (documentation) of your other offers.

Your sample financial aid appeal letter:

[Mrs. Johnson],

My name is [Charlie Jones], and I’m a high school senior attending [High School] in [City, State]. I feel honored and thrilled to have recently been admitted to the [University of Higher Education], as it is my number one choice.

However, I’m concerned about my ability to finance my college education at your school.

To be clear, I would love to attend [University of Higher Education]. [INSERT TWO CLEAR REASONS YOU’RE INTERESTED.]

But since I have received higher award packages at other schools, I’m concerned that it just doesn’t make financial sense to attend your school over my other options.

I am therefore writing to respectfully request an adjustment of my financial aid award– to be in line with my other offers.

To be specific, here are my offers from the schools that I am considering, compared to my package at [your school]:

  • [Institute of Higher Education]: [$Amount] in grants, [$Amount] full financial aid package, [$Amount] Effective cost of attendance
  • [ College of Higher Education]: [$Amount] in grants, [$Amount] full financial aid package, [$Amount] Effective cost of attendance
  • [University of Higher Education]: [$Amount] in grants, [$Amount] full financial aid package, [$Amount] Effective cost of attendance

I have attached these other financial aid award letters, along with my current FAFSA.

I would still very much like to attend college at [University of Higher Education], but I’m afraid I may not be able to afford it, with my current financial aid award package. I planned to study [Major], contribute to the school with my [Academic and/or Social Skills]. I hope that, with revised financial aid, I’ll be able to do just that.

[Mrs. Johnson], I appreciate your help and time in reviewing these circumstances, and thank you in advance for considering an adjustment to my financial aid award package.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
[Charlie Jones]

Scenario 3. When the FAFSA Hides Some Compelling Financial Situation 

Maybe your parents will likely earn way less this year because they work freelance and a big client dropped. Maybe it shows your house is fully paid because your parents took loans from family (rather than the bank). 

Remember to: Explain what kind of important financial information you think the college didn’t consider in the first round (because it wasn’t reflected in your FAFSA). Where possible, attach documentation of these circumstances.

Your financial aid appeal letter template:

[Mrs. Johnson],

My name is [Charlie Jones], and I’m a high school senior attending [High School] in [City, State]. I feel honored and thrilled to have recently been admitted to the [University of Higher Education], as it is my number one choice. [Insert 1-2 reasons you love the school and want to attend.]

However, I’m concerned about my ability to finance my college education at your school, due to some challenges in my financial situation that are not well-reflected in my FAFSA submission. I am therefore  writing to respectfully request that you review my circumstances and consider adjusting my financial aid package accordingly. 

Here’s my financial situation:

[EXPLAIN IN DETAIL WHAT KIND OF FINANCIAL CHALLENGES AREN’T CLEAR IN YOUR FAFSA – This should include specific numbers, e.g. “My mother is the sole breadwinner in our family, and she works doing freelance gigs and contract work. This means that some years she happens to land great clients and contracts, but other years, work is a lot slower, and we have less money to work with. Last year was an anomaly. As you can see in the attached documentation, in the previous years, she made only half ($50,000) what she made last year ($100,000).  So even though our FAFSA indicated her higher income last year, she therefore expects this year to be earning her “normal” amount of $50,000–which means our family can contribute much less to my college tuition. ]

I have attached documentation ([Explain what documents]) of this situation, here with my letter.

Thank you for your time in reviewing my case, [Mrs. Johnson] and for considering a revised financial aid package. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
[Charlie Jones]

Scenario 4. When Your Financial Circumstances have changed

Maybe a parent has passed away or lost a job. Maybe your mother got pregnant, so will soon need to care for (and fund) another child. Or maybe a family member got into an accident and now you’re saddled with high medical bills.

Remember to: Explain in detail how your financial circumstances have changed since you last filed your FAFSA.

Your model financial aid award letter:

[Mrs. Johnson],

My name is [Charlie Jones], and I’m a high school senior attending [High School] in [City, State]. I feel honored and thrilled to have recently been admitted to the [University of Higher Education], as it is my number one choice.

However, I’m concerned about my ability to finance my college education at your school.

To be clear, I would love to attend University of Higher Education. [INSERT TWO CLEAR REASONS YOU’RE INTERESTED.] Unfortunately, [IN SHORT, EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED], so with [these new expenses / lower income] I don’t think my family can afford the cost of attendance, without an increase in financial aid. I am therefore writing to respectfully request an adjustment of my financial aid award.

I expect that [what changed] will have the following impact on my family’s ability to pay for college: [Explain how the death/accident/divorce/job loss/pregnancy/etc. will impact your family’s contribution. Try to use exact numbers.]

Thank you for your time in reviewing this, [Mrs. Johnson]. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
[Charlie Jones]

Download these financial aid appeal letter examples. 

Get your own copy of these sample financial aid appeal letters here, to then customize to your specific situation.

Curious about other financial aid resources?

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

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