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How to appeal a financial aid award

BY VIOLET W.*
Cover photo: Screen grab from Moon Prep’s YouTube video.

As school decisions begin to be announced, students and their families should review their financial aid offers and calculate the actual cost of attending the university. Most universities allow financial aid appeals, but the process and reasons that they will accept for a change in financial aid offers can vary greatly. 

If you believe you are eligible for additional financial aid, the next step is to write a letter to the admission officers at your preferred university. You have nothing to lose, so why not appeal? This letter aims to demonstrate how your current income and savings, along with your parents, cannot cover the cost of attending college.

It’s important to have a conversation with your parents before writing the letter—has something changed in your family’s financial situation that will affect your ability to pay for college? For example, did one of your parents lose their job or get a job with a lower income? Your family might also be facing increased expenses, such as childcare costs or college tuition fees for other children. There are many reasons why college may no longer be affordable, and the appeal letter is your chance to explain this to the admission officers.

Bear in mind that this letter could be worth more than $10,000, so this is not something you spend just a few minutes on. Take the time to think it through with your parents and write it well.

Now, to the negotiations. Here are a few tips.

  1. Specify the amount of money you need. Don’t just ask for money; ask for a specific amount to make attending this college feasible.
  2. Provide proof. Without documentation to support your request, your chances of receiving more aid are minimal.
  3. Compare offers from other universities. If another university of a similar ranking has offered you a substantially larger financial aid package, you could use that as a negotiation tool. However, it’s important to compare apples to apples. For example, private universities typically offer more aid than public schools because they have higher tuition fees. Therefore, asking a public school to match a private university’s offer may be unrealistic.
  4. Maintain a polite and professional tone throughout the letter. In this case, it pays to be polite.
  5. Finally, emphasize your strong commitment to attending the university but clarify that money is the only obstacle in your path. Hopefully, this may increase the chance of receiving a larger financial aid award package. You can find a sample financial aid award letter here.

*Violet W is a College Counselor & Outreach Coordinator at MoonPrep.

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