The 10-Step Guide to a Financial Aid Appeal - Going Merry (2023)

12 April 2023


Categories: Financial Aid

(Video) How to write an SAP Financial Appeal Letter

Now that you’ve completed your FAFSA® and received your financial aid offer, you might feel a little disappointed. Maybe the school you had your heart set on has only offered you a little bit of aid. Or maybe there’s a small but significant gap between your cost of attendance and what you’ve budgeted to pay for your degree. The good news is that your initial financial aid offer isn’t necessarily final. You can ask your school to recalculate your need with a financial aid appeal.

So, what is a financial aid appeal? It’s a formal request for additional college financial aid that explains why you need the funding now. To help you make sense of the details, we put together this step-by-step guide. Here’s how to craft an outstanding appeal.

Key takeaways

  • If your financial aid package is insufficient and your financial situation has changed or isn’t accurately captured by FAFSA®, you can consider appealing your school’s aid decision.
  • Appeals tend to be more effective if you contact a financial aid administrator directly.
  • A good appeal should state exactly how much more financial aid you need and build a strong case for why this amount is necessary.

What is a financial aid appeal?

A financial aid appeal is a formal process students can use to dispute their school’s financial aid decision. While the eligibility requirements for an appeal differ by college, most require students to show proof of extenuating circumstances. If you can’t prove a significant recent change in your financial situation, you may still have success if you can explain that you only need a small amount of additional aid.

Here are a few of the extenuating circumstances that tend to warrant a financial aid appeal:

  • Your parent or guardian gave birth to a child or took on a new dependent.
  • Your parent experienced a change in employment, layoff, or other significant loss of income.
  • Your marital or dependency status changed.
  • Your parents got divorced or separated.
  • You experienced the death of a parent, guardian, or other financially impactful family member.
  • You’ve recently qualified for a dependency override.
  • Child support or spousal support benefits have come to an end.
  • You believe your FAFSA® didn’t capture the specificity of your financial situation.
  • A natural disaster resulted in the loss of your family’s home, business, or property.
  • You’ve had to take on new or unexpected medical bills or dental expenses.
  • Your family is dealing with new expenses for childcare costs or now has multiple children attending college at once.
  • You received a better financial aid offer from another school.
  • Some other significant financial changes occurred between the time of your FAFSA® submission and your financial aid offer.

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How does the financial aid appeal process work?

To be eligible for a financial aid appeal, you’ll have to have already completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and received both your student aid report and your school’s financial aid offer. Once you have that in hand, it’s time to start the appeals process.

(Video) Financial Aid Appeals | Wednesday Webinar | May 2020

1. Read through your financial aid offer

Your school determines how much financial aid you’re eligible for based on your FAFSA®. They compare the school’s cost of attendance with your expected family contribution (EFC) and other aid you may have already received. One of the best ways to appeal a financial aid decision is to prove that the FAFSA® didn’t paint a clear picture of your financial need.

So, your first step is to pore over your award letter. Add up the expected funding from any grants, work-study programs, or scholarships you’ve been offered. Then, subtract that sum from your school’s sticker price. What is your new cost of attendance? Is it a number you can afford?

2. Calculate how much additional aid you might need

Now take a look at your finances. Have you and your parents decided on a number that you can each contribute to your education? If so, what is the gap between your cost of attendance and how much you’ve budgeted?

If you only need a small amount of additional aid (say, less than $5,000), you might have success appealing your school’s aid decision. If you need more financial aid than that, consider pursuing other options, like applying for outside scholarships or private student loans.

3. Hold off on making a deposit

If you make any sort of deposit before you submit your appeal, you unofficially agree to your school’s original financial aid offer. By withholding the deposit, you’ll signal that your enrollment is dependent upon your financial aid. To have maximum negotiating power, don’t pay a deposit until after you’ve received an updated financial aid offer.

4. Determine how your school handles financial aid appeals

The financial aid appeal process varies from university to university. To better understand how yours works, call or email your school’s office of financial aid. (You should be able to find contact information online.)

Keep trying until you get through to someone. Try to get the name of the financial aid administrator handling your appeal. That way, you can address your appeal letter to a real human instead of using the impersonal “To Whom it May Concern.” Also ask if there are any specific documents or appeal forms required and if they have deadlines. For many schools, the earlier you file your appeal, the better.

5. Determine how much aid you plan to request

Before you start writing your appeal letter, calculate how much financial aid you hope to ask for. If your parents are helping you pay for school, confirm that number with them. If you’ve made a personal connection with someone in your school’s financial aid office, you may want to ask them how much the average financial aid appeal earns. Try to keep your request within that range.

6. Gather your necessary documents

Your school may require financial documents to prove you’re dealing with special circumstances. These could include anything from a recent tax return or pay stub, to a death certificate or divorce paperwork. Be thorough and thoughtful. The more airtight your case, the more likely it is that you’ll receive the money you need. Don’t skip this step — even if your school tells you that supporting documentation is optional.

7. Write a financial aid appeal letter

The all-important financial appeal letter is your opportunity to personalize your appeal request and make your application stand out. Your letter should be professional yet passionate (here’s a template to help you get started).

(Video) Financial Aid Appeals: How to Request Additional Financial Aid from Colleges

Address it to someone on the appeals committee and include only specific, factual information about your financial circumstances. Be sure to detail anything that’s changed since you originally submitted your FAFSA®.

If you’re an incoming first-year student, you may be able to “negotiate” with your college or university by showing them a better financial aid offer from another school. Be respectful, not heavy-handed. Also, make sure that the “competing” school is comparable in size and prestige.

If you’re a returning student, you must demonstrate satisfactory academic progress (SAP) each year to maintain your financial aid package. If your transcript has a few holes or missteps, use your letter to explain them.

8. Complete your appeal form and any other documents

If your school requires it, complete an official appeal form. This document will likely include information about which academic year you’re applying for, how much additional aid you’re requesting, and a brief description of your circumstances.

9. Submit your application

Once you’ve gathered your documents and completed your financial aid appeal letter, it’s time to submit. Proofread everything again. Make sure it’s all addressed to the proper people and that there are no typos.

Some schools still require financial aid appeals to be submitted via mail. If this is the case, take extra time to make your application look professional. Print your letter on high-quality paper and sign the bottom by hand. Consider adding tracking to ensure your application gets to where it needs to go.

If you’re submitting digitally, name each of your files clearly with your last name and document title. This will help the appeals committee keep track of everything. Add a digital signature to your appeals letter to make it look official.

10. Follow up with a “thank you”

If you’ve submitted your appeals letter via mail, wait a week, then call your school’s office of financial aid to make sure they’ve received your documents. If you spoke with a financial aid administrator during your appeal, go the extra mile and write them a handwritten thank-you note. (An emailed note can also do in a pinch — just make sure it’s specific, gracious, and timely.)

How to make college more affordable

Hopefully, your financial aid appeal will net you every dollar you ask for. If it doesn’t, there are still other ways to make your education more affordable.

  • Fill out your FAFSA® as early as possible to obtain federal grants. Ideally, you’ve already filled out your FAFSA®. If not, do this immediately (we can help you here), because some aid is offered on a first-come first-serve basis. You’ll be automatically entered for need-based federal grants, like the Pell Grant, which renew annually and don’t need to be repaid.
  • Complete your state’s grant application, too. Most states offer state-wide grants, which, like the FAFSA®, are need-based.
  • Apply for scholarships. Scholarships are an excellent source of education funding because they never need to be repaid. You’ll also find awards that fit every type of student — from high school seniors to graduate students.
  • Consider student loans. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, federal student loans carry low, fixed interest rates and flexible repayment plans. Once you’ve exhausted your federal options, explore private loans, too.
  • Choose a less expensive school. Deciding where to study is an important factor in the overall cost of your higher education. To keep costs low, prioritize public, in-state schools over private colleges. You may also want to explore beginning your degree at a community college or satellite campus. These options generally have lower tuition fees.
  • Earn college credits before you walk on campus – Take AP classes or PLA exams to gain extra college credit hours. If your high school offers them, you can also complete dual enrollment classes.
  • Start saving in advance – Ask your parents to open a 529 plan, which is a state-sponsored college savings account. You or your legal guardian can contribute post-tax dollars, then watch your savings grow. When it’s time to go to college, you’ll be able to take out your earnings without paying additional taxes.

Get matched to scholarships with Going Merry

Requesting more financial aid is a smart decision for many students. To make your request stand out, craft an appeal letter that’s professional, thorough, and supported by plenty of documentation. The financial aid office at your college or university will likely be reading a lot of applications, so the more you can do to make your appeal unique, the better.

(Video) CAP Office Hours 1.23.23 - Appeal For More Financial Aid and Scholarship

While you pursue additional financial aid, also consider applying for scholarships. There are more than 1.7 million college scholarships available, and some cover up to the full cost of attendance. You can access many of these awards via Going Merry, a top scholarship search platform that makes it easy to apply for scholarships online. All you have to do is create a profile with details like your GPA and demographic information, and we’ll automatically match you with awards you’re already eligible for. Sign up for Going Merry to start your scholarship search today.

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Going Merry is a one-stop shop for scholarships-- allowing students to find and apply for scholarships, right on our platform. It's like the best scholarship search engine, and an efficient scholarship application form, all in one. How does it work? You fill out a profile, get matched to scholarships you're eligible for, and then can filter or favorite scholarships into an application shortlist. Then, when you're ready to apply, our platform auto-fills any information you've already told us, so that you never have to answer the same thing twice. Counselors often call us the "common app for scholarships."

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(Video) How To Write A Financial Aid Appeal Letter



How do I pass a financial aid appeal? ›

How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter: 3 Tips
  1. Provide Examples of Your Circumstances. Your financial aid appeal letter should include specific examples that clearly indicate how your particular circumstances have affected your ability to pay for college. ...
  2. Be Aware of Tone and Grammar. ...
  3. Be Genuine and Polite.

What should I write in my financial aid appeal? ›

Be Respectful and Honest, and Keep it Short. An appeal letter should include other information beyond specific examples of financial changes or hardships. A parent should thank the financial aid office for its consideration, and write briefly about the student's excitement to attend the institution.

How do I write a successful SAP appeal letter? ›

Your letter should be specific to your situation and should explain why you did not meet SAP requirements. The documentation you submit will be based on and should support your reasoning.

How do I convince financial aid to give me more money? ›

If it's a needs-based appeal, contact the financial aid office to ask for more aid. If it's a merit-based appeal, contact the enrollment or admissions office. Explain that you want to initiate a Professional Judgement Review (or Special Circumstances Review, as some schools call it).

How successful are financial aid appeals? ›

Appeals aren't always successful —- my success rate for my clients is a little more than 50 percent. But by using these tips, you can increase your chances of success right from the start.

How do you write a good appeal letter? ›

Writing an Effective Appeal Letter
  1. Don't rush. Far too often students do not take the time to write a proper appeal. ...
  2. Opening statement. ...
  3. Be factual. ...
  4. Be specific. ...
  5. Documentation. ...
  6. Stick to the point. ...
  7. Do not try to manipulate the reader. ...
  8. How to talk about feelings.

How do I write a financial aid appeal letter in SAP? ›

Write your SAP appeal letter—keeping it brief and to the point. Admit the problem up front, and be honest. Explain what happened and what has changed that'll allow you to return to satisfactory academic performance. Your letter should be brief and honest and include all the necessary information and documentation.

What are good excuses for a SAP appeal? ›

Valid reasons for an SAP appeal
  • medical emergencies.
  • severe health issues.
  • severe personal or family problems.
  • financial or personal catastrophe.
  • return for a second degree or certificate.

What is a good reason for SAP appeal? ›

Valid Reasons to Submit a SAP Appeal

Medical emergencies. Severe health issues. Severe personal or family problems. Serious illness or death of a family member (parent, grandparent or sibling)

What happens if my SAP appeal is approved? ›

If your SAP Appeal is approved, your financial aid will be paid into your student account when your financial aid application (FAFSA) and all other financial aid requirements have been met. You can check the status of your financial aid online via your myState account.

What is the most financial aid will pay? ›

This table shows the maximum and average amounts for various types of federal student aid for undergraduate students for 2020-2021.
Average and maximum financial aid.
Type of AidAverage AmountMaximum Amount
Total Federal Grants$4,980$10,345
5 more rows

How many times can you appeal financial aid suspension? ›

Appeals are granted as a one-time exception however, exceptions to satisfactory academic progress standards are granted on a case-by-case basis when mitigating circumstances warrant special consideration; however, due to lack of funds, many programs generally cannot be reinstated after cancellation.

What is an example of a financial appeal? ›

Sample financial aid appeal letter

The amount I need to cover my education expenses this year is $40,000 and I am requesting an increased amount of student loan or gift aid to cover that remaining $13,000. Since completing and submitting the FAFSA, my family encountered unexpected financial hardship.

What do you write in a student appeal? ›

Share what factors beyond your control contributed to your academic situation. Describe how these factors had a direct impact on your academic performance. Be as specific as possible. Provide any evidence that you were doing well until the circumstances occurred.

How do I write a letter of financial help? ›

I am writing to request partial or full financial support for my education. If you need additional information please let me know. I will gladly provide you with the information you need. It is my hope that you will give my request for financial support your most serious consideration.

What kind of financial aid is the most appealing? ›

Grants and scholarships are the most desirable forms of financial aid because they come in the form of free money, often with no strings attached. Some grants and scholarships are applied right to your bill - you often see this with federal and school-based aid.

How often are college appeals successful? ›

Only 1 to 2 percent of appeals are successful. Some students may see this as overwhelming odds and decide against it. Others may see it as an opening, however small and decide to go for it. If they are lucky, they would be in that 1-2% who managed to get the admissions decision overturned.

What happens if my financial aid appeal is denied? ›

If your appeal is denied, you may submit a secondary appeal to the Office of Student Financial Aid if you are providing new information that was not considered in your original appeal.

How do you make a strong appeal? ›

Content and Tone
  1. Opening Statement. The first sentence or two should state the purpose of the letter clearly. ...
  2. Be Factual. Include factual detail but avoid dramatizing the situation. ...
  3. Be Specific. ...
  4. Documentation. ...
  5. Stick to the Point. ...
  6. Do Not Try to Manipulate the Reader. ...
  7. How to Talk About Feelings. ...
  8. Be Brief.

How do you make a perfect appeal? ›

Generally, unless otherwise provided by statute, rule or Court order, an appeal is perfected by filing the original record or appendix, five copies thereof, an original and five copies of a brief, all exhibits, and proof of service of the record and brief, and paying the filing fee.

What is an example of a financial aid suspension appeal letter? ›

My name is Leon Melville and I am writing to appeal the suspension of my financial aid package. I failed to make academic satisfactory progress this semester, primarily due to my poor performance in Calculus II and Statistics. I take full responsibility for the decline in my academic performance this semester.

Do you need documentation for a SAP appeal? ›

Supporting documentation is required for all appeals. Sources may include counselor, doctor, therapist, police, clergy, Cook Counseling, or Services for Students with Disabilities.

How long does it take for a SAP appeal to be accepted? ›

SAP Appeals are typically reviewed within 3-4 weeks from the time an appeal is submitted online and supporting documentation is reviewed and deemed Complete. Students are responsible for adhering to all fee payment deadlines, even if they have a SAP Appeal under review.

How many times can you do a SAP appeal? ›

Completed SAP appeals will be reviewed within 15 business days. You will be notified by UI e-mail if your appeal is accepted or denied. Please note: Up to three appeals may be accepted.

How long does it take to get financial aid after SAP appeal is approved? ›

Please allow 7-10 business days from the date of approval for your aid eligibility to be reviewed and placed on your account.

Can you do a SAP appeal twice? ›

Appeals received after a semester ends can only be approved for future semesters. Students may appeal one time per event. Multiple appeals for the same event will be denied unless information previously submitted did not disclose all aspects of the situation.

How long does a SAP appeal last? ›

What is the time frame for processing a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) appeal? Depending upon the time of year, the review process may take up to 2-3 weeks once the appeal has been submitted to our office for review.

What disqualifies you from getting financial aid? ›

Incarceration, misdemeanors, arrests, and more serious crimes can all affect a student's aid. Smaller offenses won't necessarily cut off a student from all aid, but it will limit the programs they qualify for as well as the amount of aid they could receive. Larger offenses can disqualify a student entirely.

What is the average amount of financial aid awarded? ›

Federal Student Aid data shows that approximately 17.8 million FAFSAs were submitted during the 2020-21 application cycle. Over the last decade, the average grant aid per full-time undergraduate student has doubled, going from $5,190 in 2001 to $10,590 in 2021.

How much financial aid can I get in a lifetime? ›

The amount of Federal Pell Grant funds you may receive over your lifetime is limited by federal law to be the equivalent of six years of Pell Grant funding.

How do I get my financial aid back after suspension? ›

How to Get Back Your Financial Aid Eligibility
  1. Contact your school's financial aid office. Speak with someone about the reasons for your suspension and the steps you'll need to take to get back on track.
  2. Appeal the suspension. ...
  3. Improve your grades. ...
  4. Get out of default. ...
  5. Be patient.
Dec 3, 2022

What are the 3 requirements of SAP? ›

SAP measures academic performance based on three standards: cumulative grade point average (GPA), pace, and maximum timeframe. To be eligible for financial aid, students must comply with all three requirements.

How long does SAP suspension last? ›

How long does SAP restriction and/or probation last? Restriction: Lasts until an approved SAP appeal and/or you begin to meet SAP standards. Even if an appeal is approved, you may be put on a one-semester SAP probation in order to best monitor your academic progress.

What if my financial aid appeal is denied? ›

If your appeal is denied, you may submit a secondary appeal to the Office of Student Financial Aid if you are providing new information that was not considered in your original appeal.

What is the 150 rule for financial aid appeals? ›

The 150 percent rule applies to all classes attempted by the student, including vocational and transfer hours. Students must make other arrangements to pay their tuition and fees if their financial aid is terminated and they do not appeal or their appeal is denied.

Do SAP appeals get approved? ›

SAP Appeals are typically reviewed within 3-4 weeks from the time an appeal is submitted online and supporting documentation is reviewed and deemed Complete. Students are responsible for adhering to all fee payment deadlines, even if they have a SAP Appeal under review.

What happens after my financial aid appeal is approved? ›

If your SAP Appeal is approved, your financial aid will be paid into your student account when your financial aid application (FAFSA) and all other financial aid requirements have been met. You can check the status of your financial aid online via your myState account.

How long does it take to hear back from a FAFSA appeal? ›

It may take anywhere from two weeks to six weeks for the Office of Financial Aid to review your appeal.

How long does it take to get a response for financial aid appeal? ›

EVALUATION PROCESS: Appeals are typically reviewed within 4-6 weeks. During busy processing times (such as the summer), it may take longer for your appeal to be evaluated. If your appeal is approved you will receive a revised notification of eligibility on MyUCLA.

How long do FAFSA appeals take? ›

Depending upon the time of year, the review process may take up to 2-3 weeks once the appeal has been submitted to our office for review. Students should be sure that all sections have been completed in their entirety, including a signature from the program designee, and all supporting documentation has been attached.

What is the financial aid 67% rule? ›

The US Department of Education requires students to complete at least 67 percent of all courses attempted for all colleges attempted to maintain eligibility for federal financial aid. PACE is calculated by dividing the earned credits by the attempted credits.

How many times can you appeal your financial aid suspension? ›

Appeals are granted as a one-time exception however, exceptions to satisfactory academic progress standards are granted on a case-by-case basis when mitigating circumstances warrant special consideration; however, due to lack of funds, many programs generally cannot be reinstated after cancellation.

What happens when SAP is denied? ›

If your appeal is denied your only options for paying your educational expenses are to either pay out of pocket or to apply for a private student loan.


1. What to Know about Financial Aid Appeals
(MEFA: Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority)
2. Financial Aid Appeal Letters
3. Appealing Financial Aid & Merit Scholarships
4. How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award Letter (Full Episode) | The College Essay Guy Podcast
(College Essay Guy)
5. Webinar: Understanding Financial Aid—Beyond the FAFSA (2.9.2022)
(College Essay Guy)
6. Webinar: Understanding Your Financial Aid Award and Appealing for More


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