Appealing Your Financial Aid Award

By Thomas Broderick

Published on August 20, 2021

Appealing Your Financial Aid Award

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Correcting Your FAFSA with an Appeal

College students submit the FAFSA annually to determine their eligibility for federal student aid programs. Learners receive aid when their school's attendance cost exceeds their expected family contribution (EFC). The government calculates EFC by analyzing students' or their families' income, assets, and benefits.

Some learners who qualify for aid due to their FAFSA results still experience difficulty paying for school. One reason includes parents not contributing to tuition expenses. The following sections detail how learners can appeal their financial aid award amount, correct the FAFSA, and write a financial aid appeal letter. Learners can contact their school's financial aid advisor for more information.

Can You Appeal Your Financial Aid Award Amount?


Nearly all colleges and universities allow financial aid appeals. However, accepted reasons for an appeal vary among schools. A typical appeals process involves writing a letter, providing financial documentation, and meeting with a financial aid advisor. See below for a few reasons why incoming and enrolled students appeal their financial aid.

Recent Unemployment
Many learners rely on a job to pay for tuition, textbooks, and other education-related expenses. Losing income affects financial aid considerably, as the FAFSA uses it to determine EFC.
Homelessness
Learners who become homeless while in school may qualify for additional financial aid, as the federal government no longer classifies them as dependents. This stipulation applies only to younger degree-seekers.
Income Change
Changing jobs may result in earning a smaller salary. As a result, learners should report this information to their school's financial aid department and update their FAFSA.
Medical Expenses
Medical debt affects millions of Americans and lowers borrowers' overall wealth. Learners may qualify for additional federal and institutional aid, depending on their debt level.
Childcare Costs
A growing family impacts learners' tax returns, FAFSA results, and financial aid eligibility. Degree-seekers with a new child can speak with a financial aid advisor to learn how this development affects their aid offer.

How to Appeal Your Financial Aid Award


College students struggling with how to appeal their financial aid should first assess their circumstances and contact their school's financial aid department. Advisors provide information regarding the appeals process and requirements.

Step 1: Assess Your Circumstances

Writing a financial aid appeal letter starts by determining whether individual circumstances merit it. Make a list of the events affecting the need for financial aid. Some learners discover that remedying their financial situation does not require an appeal. For example, they may begin working part time or apply for additional scholarships.

Step 2: Contact the School's Financial Aid Department

College and university financial aid advisors provide students with information regarding financial aid appeals, such as eligibility requirements and the appeals process. Degree-seekers should write down their questions and concerns before meeting with an advisor. This ensures they leave knowing how to proceed with an appeal.

Step 3: Collect Needed Documentation

Learners may need to submit more than a financial aid appeal letter to increase their aid amount. Typical requirements include tax forms, a letter from an employer, a W-2, or other documentation. Additional information beyond what a school requires may bolster a student's case. Make copies of all documents before providing them to the financial aid department.

Step 4: Write an Appeal Letter

A persuasive financial aid appeal letter addresses a specific person, such as the financial aid department's dean. The letter should also clearly state the need for more aid, the amount required, and an explanation of circumstances. If necessary, ask about next steps. Do not forget to convey gratitude to readers for considering the appeal.

Step 5: Submit Your Appeal

No matter how persuasive a financial aid appeal letter, learners must submit it promptly. Students should also consider whether the financial aid office accepts letters by email, mail, or in person. Following the rules and meeting deadlines demonstrates professionalism and may influence the school's final decision.

Is a Financial Aid Appeal Different Than a Change to your FAFSA Form?


Changing a FAFSA form and writing a financial aid appeal letter serve the same purpose but require different steps. Students whose financial situation changes can resubmit their FAFSA with new information. Learners complete this step first, as schools determine need-based financial aid on FAFSA results. A modified EFC may raise institutional financial aid considerably, making a financial aid appeal letter unnecessary.

Some degree-seekers with a modified EFC may still need additional aid. These learners can write a financial aid appeal letter to their school's financial aid department.

Students who submit the FAFSA receive a student aid report (SAR) which details all submitted information and the EFC. Some learners reviewing their SAR discover mistakes, such as an incorrect Social Security number, misreported financial information, or a change in dependency status. Other students must update their form because their school changed its federal school code. If any of these conditions apply, degree-seekers should update their FAFSA as soon as possible.

The federal government allows students to correct mistakes online or by mail. The FAFSA recommends users submit a new FAFSA form using their unique FSA ID. Users receive an FSA ID when creating a FAFSA account.

Although users may change personal information, they cannot update some financial information until the following academic year. One exception is losing a job, which leaves students with unexpected need.

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What Updates Can You Make to the FAFSA?


Students can update their FAFSA in specific circumstances. The following changes may significantly affect an institutional aid offer and eliminate the need for a financial aid appeal letter.

Your Dependency Status

Learners who classify as dependents provide their parents' financial information when completing the FAFSA. However, if degree-seekers become emancipated or reach their 24th birthday, their status changes. Other life changes affecting dependency include marrying, enrolling in a graduate program, and having children. Any one of these events makes degree-seekers independent.

Number of People in Your Household

Household size affects FAFSA results considerably. Emancipated or independent degree-seekers calculate student household size by including themselves, their spouse, and any children or dependents. However, dependent learners provide information regarding their parents and siblings. For both groups, a change in household size may decrease EFC and increase a financial aid offer.

Number of College Students in Your Household

In addition to household size, students must provide information on how many people in their parents' household attend college. Students update their FAFSA when a sibling or another person besides a parent enrolls full time or part time. Learners should note that this question considers residency only, meaning the other person need not possess a familial relationship with the student.

How to Update Your FAFSA

Degree-seekers can update the FAFSA by resubmitting the form. The process involves answering the same questions and providing new documentation, if necessary. The FAFSA offers step-by-step guides. After updating the FAFSA, degree-seekers should contact their school's financial aid department to learn about next steps and whether their aid offer changes.

Tips for Writing an Appeal Letter

Learners can increase their chances of a successful appeal by using straightforward language in their financial aid appeal letter, providing proof, and staying professional. These and other strategies help a letter present a convincing argument.

Be Direct
Learners should make their point quickly and directly by using concise language and requesting additional financial aid early on in the letter. Strategies include informing readers of the specific amount of assistance required and the circumstances leading to that need.
Provide Proof
Students should include all required information with a financial aid appeal letter. Also, consider whether to include additional proof, especially if the letter references specific financial figures. On the documentation, circle or highlight relevant sections to help financial aid advisors reviewing the appeal. This extra step makes their job easier and may increase the chances of a positive outcome.
Use a Professional Format
A financial aid appeal letter should possess the same formatting and tone as a resume or cover letter. An unprofessional letter raises questions in readers' minds, even if other documentation demonstrates a greater need for financial assistance. Students can make their letter professional by writing one or more drafts and asking a second person to provide feedback.
Move Fast
Colleges and universities budget merit- and need-based financial aid awards annually, meaning they may exhaust funding before the academic year's end. Learners can avoid this situation by submitting their financial aid appeal as soon as possible. Other strategies include asking an advisor about other methods to speed up the appeals process.

What if Your Appeal is Rejected?


Not all qualified students succeed with a financial aid appeal. Fortunately, degree-seekers can explore other avenues to finance their education, including private loans, scholarships, tuition reimbursement, work, and internships.

Private Loans

Learners in need can turn to banks and other financial institutions to secure student loans. Unlike federal loans, private loans use a higher interest rate and may incur interest before borrowers graduate. Benefits include not paying back loans before graduation and various lenders from which to choose.

Scholarships

Numerous corporations and organizations award scholarships to eligible students. Typical application requirements include a GPA cutoff, recommendation letters, and an essay. Recipients do not pay back scholarships as long as they remain in good academic standing. Students can browse multiple scholarship websites and narrow their search by major, GPA requirement, and deadline.

Tuition Reimbursement Plans

Many employers offer tuition reimbursement plans to employees wanting to advance their education. A typical plan involves the employer paying for each course the employee passes. For receiving funding, the employee agrees to remain with the company for a specific number of years after graduation. Degree-seekers can speak with a work supervisor to determine eligibility.

Part-Time Jobs

A part-time job may not cover all tuition expenses but prevents many learners in need from dropping out of school. Opportunities include a temp job through an employment agency or freelance work for one or more companies. The latter provides the flexibility many degree-seekers need to maintain their grades and graduate on time.

Paid Internships

Internship programs allow companies to train the next generation of professionals and offer talented college students a full-time job opportunity. A paid internship features these benefits and helps learners pay for school. Students can explore paid internship opportunities on their school's career center website or research other online job boards.

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Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

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