Financial Aid Appeal Letter

As many students start getting their college acceptance letters, the reality of paying for college is near.  The hopeful scholarships and financial aid may not have reached the level of need that you were expecting. Being organized and having a financial aid appeal letter strategy will improve your chances of success.

This year’s financial aid process uses the income numbers from the 2022 tax year for the school year 2024-25.  If you have had a significant change from those numbers, you should consider an appeal.

A Financial Aid Appeal letter should be sent if there is a change in your family’s financial status since the submission of your FAFSA.   PayForED created a list of reasons for appealing your financial aid award letter, as well as a sample letter titled, “Financial Aid Appeal Letter”.

This article is a guide to help you with your college funding and student loan decisions.  It is important to have a good starting point, since the first year award will normally be the foundation of future awards.

Reasons for Financial Aid Appeal Letter

There are several reasons or circumstances that may warrant a review of your award letter. Specifically, the family will need to list any financial changes that will hurt their ability to pay that college’s tuition.  Here are changes that may have occurred since filing the FAFSA.

Most of these events are due to a change in income or an increase in personal expenses.  Some of the possible reasons include:

  • A parent losing a job or reduction of income
  • Unexpected medical expenses
  • Death of a parent
  • A one-time increase in family’s income reflected in the based FAFSA year (2020)
  • Support of an elderly parent
  • Damage due to natural disaster
  • Divorce or Separation

Steps in the Financial Aid Appeal Process

The first step is to contact the financial aid office.  More colleges have created a formal electronic process but each college is different.  As the appeal process is unique to each institution, getting the correct process is important.  Discovering the right person who manages this process is also important.

In your appeal letter, you will need to list specific information about the student.  In addition to their name and address, there may be a student ID or reference number listed on the acceptance or award letter.  That number should also be part of the appeal letter, if available.  You should try to find the relevant dates needed to process the appeal.  Each school has its own method and the deadlines could be different.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Structure

It is the responsibility of the family to justify any changes with financial facts.  For this reason, I always suggest that families include any financial numbers that show the adjustments in their income when submitting their appeal.  We recommend that your appeal letter be short, polite, and concise.  This will help the reader during the appeal process.

The financial aid office may request further documentation to support your appeal request.  This means that third-party documentation of your adjusted income should be available to support your appeal.

One of the key documents to have ready is the family’s most current tax return.  Your current tax information was not used during your FAFSA completion due to Prior Prior.  The current tax return may reflect the changes in income and improve your chance of success.

If you are considering appealing the financial award letter and are thinking about filing your taxes on extension, it may be a good idea to get them done during the appeal process if not before.  Having the current tax information will better support the appeal and recent changes.

This process may take several weeks to review and if approved the family would receive a revised financial aid award letter from the college.  Under the new admission rules, this could go on beyond the traditional May 1 deadline.  We do not recommend that you avoid making a commitment to at least one college by the commitment deadline.  Colleges need to fill seats, if you do not commit then they may fill it with someone else.  You can request an extension but that may only allow for a minimal amount of time.

Professional Judgment Adjustment for Financial Aid Appeal

The financial appeal process has a specific name for adjustments that are made.  The financial aid offices call it professional judgment.  This refers to the ability of the financial aid administrators at the college to adjust a student’s federal aid application (FAFSA) based on special financial circumstances provided by the family.

It is important that the family knows that it is a professional judgment at that specific college.  Not all changes in financial circumstances will result in a positive financial adjustment at each college.  Depending on the college, each result can be different and will be based on the college’s financial situation and the college’s need for each type of student.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Sample

To help you better understand how you should format your appeal letter, I am going to give you a specific family situation and a sample letter.

Family situation: 

A family filed taxes married/joint in the tax year 2022.  The FAFSA base year for this year’s entering college freshman is 2024. One of the spouses was recently laid off.

There is now a loss of income of $70,000 per year.  This family’s Federal (FAFSA) Expected Family Contribution or EFC was $42,406 using the tax year 2020.  If the college accepts the full impact of this loss of a job, it could result in an EFC change of approximately $31,000.  This could result in a significant change in the financial award letter for the student.

Appeal Letter based on the above scenario:


(Attach any financial documents that warrant a review of your financial changes)

Financial Appeal Letter Conclusion

It is recommended you contact the college to confirm their commitment date. If you are planning to appeal your financial aid award, I recommend that you start the process as soon as possible.  As other students decline their offers, there may be new college money available and that may result in a favorable financial outcome for you. Ultimately, the professional judgment of the college will determine if your appeal request is successful.  Providing the institution with the proper financial documents in a concise and easy-to-read appeal letter could be the key to your success.  We have dedicated March to helping families understand their award letters.  A breakdown of items found in the award letter can be found in the following PayForED articles.

Should you need further help, PayForED does have a list of financial advisers trained in College Funding and Student Loan Repayment to help you.

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