So you’ve gone through the hard work of applying for colleges and received the award letter from your choice school. The only problem? It’s not enough money. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to end here. There are still options to negotiate or appeal your financial aid award.
For starters, think of your financial aid award letter like a potential job offer — everything is negotiable. And if you don’t negotiate, or at the very least ask, then you’ll never know if a better offer is available.
In fact, you should negotiate every aid award letter you receive. There is no downside to asking for more funds if you have a legitimate reason (continue reading below).
Every school has its own process and timeline for aid appeal, so make sure to consult your specific institution’s financial aid office for requirements. Consider the following as general principles to help your appeal process. If you still have questions, leave a comment below so we can try to answer it.
Are you Eligible to Appeal your Aid?
Before writing your appeal, you must have some legitimate reasons for receiving additional aid beyond the initial offer.
- Do you have any merit-based achievements?
- Have you received multiple offers from colleges?
- Do you have siblings enrolled in college currently?
- Has your family experienced a loss of job or income?
- Passing of a parent or guardian?
- Unexpected costs (e.g., medical bills) or suffered from natural disaster?
If any of the above apply to your situation, you may consider appealing your aid award. Read on to learn more about the specific circumstances above and how they apply.
Is your GPA high? Have you been on your school’s honor roll or maybe elected to all-state honors for athletic/artistic and academic talent? Be sure to include these factors in your letter.
Mentioning Outside Offers
Use your other offers as leverage towards your choice school. If you have legitimate offers and awards from other schools, include these as references. It is possible for your choice school to counter-offer or match a competing offer.
Other College Students in Family
Does your family or household have multiple or more than one college student? For example, two siblings enrolled in undergraduate school.
Sudden Loss of Income or Loss of Parent
Has your family suddenly lost income due to an injury or sickness? Or it could be related to work hours being reduced or even termination. If a parent or guardian is lost, a family’s EFC will also likely be impacted.
Unforeseen Costs and Disasters
Let’s face it: medical bills in the US are alarmingly high. If you or family have accrued significant debt (or experienced a natural disaster) and suffered as a result, this information can be included.
Writing your Appeal Letter
Once you gather your information, you will need to submit your aid appeal letter to your university’s financial aid office. Even though it is an appeal letter, this is your chance to explain your personal situation and articulate why more funding will help meet your needs and goals. Remember that you don’t need to have experienced all the eligibility requirements, but at least one.
In your letter, be sure to be specific and use facts and figures to support your case. Concrete evidence and references will add legitimacy to your profile and increase your chances of winning an appeal. As mentioned above, be sure to include copies of award letters from other schools or letters of recommendations.
Drive home your argument. But first, remember to take time to thank them for the package offered. Be clear and direct as to why you want to attend this particular institution. Let them know that additional funding would easily help attend your top pick.
Submitting your Letter
Now that the hard work is done, the easy part is submitting the letter. Still, make sure that you read carefully to make sure you finish all the steps.
For starters, make sure to submit the letter as soon as you can. If you have relevant attachments or documents that pertain to your case, make sure to attach clean and readable copies. This could include transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other applicable resources. Just like you would for a job application, double-check your letter for any typos or grammar issues. Read it out loud to yourself. Ask a counselor at school for help if you’re unsure or need a second opinion.
Before sending or submitting, confirm the email address(es) or physical addresses with the financial aid office that will be receiving the appeal.
Following Up on your Offer
Upon submitting your letter, it is advised to contact the financial aid office to confirm they received the application and materials (if relevant). Remember, the financial aid office is a very busy place during most of the school year. So you will need to be professionally persistent in keeping up with your aid appeal. Stay in touch with the office and make sure that you get a final decision.
Alternative Options to Consider
Perhaps you do get a better offer from a top school. If so, congratulations on working to get more financial aid. But if you don’t get a better deal, not all hope is lost. For example, is the cost between schools the only determining factor? Maybe you have a great deal at a school, but it isn’t necessarily your top pick. Consider other qualities in a school other than purely the cost.
Finally, if you haven’t already, start applying for outside scholarships to help bridge the gap between financial aid and potential loans.