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How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award

Financial aid can be a crucial factor in determining whether or not a student can afford to attend college. However, the initial financial aid award offered by a college or university may not always meet a student’s needs or expectations. In such cases, it is possible to appeal the financial aid award in the hopes of receiving a more favorable offer. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on how to appeal a financial aid award, including the necessary steps, tips for success, and examples of successful appeals.

Understanding the Financial Aid Award

Before diving into the process of appealing a financial aid award, it is important to have a clear understanding of what the award entails. The financial aid award typically includes a combination of grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and loans. It is designed to bridge the gap between the cost of attendance and the student’s expected family contribution (EFC).

When reviewing the financial aid award, pay close attention to the breakdown of the different types of aid offered. Take note of any grants or scholarships, as these do not need to be repaid. Additionally, consider the amount of work-study offered and the terms of any loans included in the award.

Reasons to Appeal a Financial Aid Award

There are several valid reasons why a student may choose to appeal their financial aid award. Some common reasons include:

  • A significant change in financial circumstances since submitting the FAFSA
  • An error or omission on the FAFSA
  • Special circumstances not reflected in the FAFSA
  • Competing offers from other colleges or universities
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It is important to note that not all appeals will be successful. However, if you have a legitimate reason and can provide supporting documentation, it is worth the effort to appeal your financial aid award.

Steps to Appeal a Financial Aid Award

When appealing a financial aid award, it is crucial to follow the proper steps to ensure your appeal is considered. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to appeal a financial aid award:

Step 1: Review the College’s Appeal Process

Start by reviewing the college’s appeal process. Each institution may have its own specific guidelines and requirements for appealing a financial aid award. Look for information on the college’s website or contact the financial aid office directly to obtain the necessary forms and instructions.

Step 2: Gather Supporting Documentation

Once you understand the college’s appeal process, gather any supporting documentation that strengthens your case. This may include recent tax returns, pay stubs, medical bills, or any other relevant financial documents. If you are appealing due to special circumstances, such as a recent job loss or a family emergency, provide documentation to support your claim.

Step 3: Write a Formal Appeal Letter

Next, write a formal appeal letter addressing the financial aid office. In your letter, clearly state the reason for your appeal and provide a detailed explanation of your circumstances. Be sure to include any supporting documentation and reference specific sections of the financial aid award that you believe should be reconsidered.

When writing your appeal letter, it is important to be concise, respectful, and professional. Clearly articulate your case and explain why you believe the initial financial aid award does not accurately reflect your financial need.

Step 4: Submit Your Appeal

Once you have completed your appeal letter and gathered all necessary documentation, submit your appeal to the financial aid office according to the college’s guidelines. Be sure to keep copies of all documents for your records and follow up with the office to confirm receipt of your appeal.

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Step 5: Follow Up

After submitting your appeal, it is important to follow up with the financial aid office to ensure your appeal is being reviewed. Contact the office to inquire about the status of your appeal and ask if there is any additional information or documentation they require.

Be patient during this process, as it may take some time for the financial aid office to review your appeal and make a decision. If your appeal is successful, you will receive a revised financial aid award. If your appeal is denied, consider exploring other options, such as scholarships or private loans, to help cover the cost of attendance.

Tips for a Successful Appeal

While there is no guarantee that your appeal will be successful, there are several tips you can follow to increase your chances:

  • Submit your appeal as soon as possible. Many colleges have limited funds available for appeals, so it is important to act quickly.
  • Be thorough and provide all necessary documentation. The more evidence you can provide to support your case, the stronger your appeal will be.
  • Clearly explain your circumstances and how they have impacted your ability to pay for college. Use specific examples and provide as much detail as possible.
  • Be respectful and professional in your appeal letter. Avoid using emotional language or making demands.
  • Follow up with the financial aid office to ensure your appeal is being reviewed and to provide any additional information they may require.

Examples of Successful Appeals

While every appeal is unique, it can be helpful to review examples of successful appeals to get an idea of what works. Here are two examples of successful financial aid appeals:

Example 1: Change in Financial Circumstances

John, a high school senior, initially received a financial aid award that did not meet his family’s needs. However, shortly after receiving the award, John’s father lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. John decided to appeal his financial aid award, providing documentation of his father’s job loss and the resulting financial hardship.

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John’s appeal was successful, and the college revised his financial aid award to reflect his family’s new financial circumstances. The additional aid allowed John to afford the college and pursue his dream of higher education.

Example 2: Special Circumstances

Sarah, a college freshman, experienced a family emergency that significantly impacted her ability to pay for college. Sarah’s mother was diagnosed with a serious illness, requiring extensive medical treatment and leaving the family with substantial medical bills.

Sarah decided to appeal her financial aid award, providing documentation of her mother’s illness and the resulting financial strain on her family. Sarah’s appeal was successful, and the college increased her financial aid package to help cover the additional expenses associated with her mother’s medical treatment.


Appealing a financial aid award can be a daunting process, but it is worth pursuing if you believe the initial award does not accurately reflect your financial need. By understanding the financial aid award, following the proper steps, and providing supporting documentation, you can increase your chances of a successful appeal. Remember to be patient, respectful, and professional throughout the process, and consider seeking guidance from a financial aid advisor if needed. With perseverance and a strong case, you may be able to secure a more favorable financial aid award and make your college dreams a reality.

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