check mark   Article highlights

  • Your financial aid package shows you how much money you’ll receive, in the form of grants, scholarships, and opportunities like work-study.
  • It’s possible to appeal a financial aid package, especially if your family circumstances have changed.
  • A school may not revise their package. But a school will not rescind your admission if you appeal for financial aid.

You got into your dream school… but a few days later, your financial aid award package arrives. You crunch the numbers, and you realize that, even with aid, tuition is going to be a stretch.

Your award letter outlines the different types of aid you’ve been awarded (loans, grants, scholarships, etc.) and the amounts, how much your family is expected to contribute, and what the net cost to you and your family will be, otherwise known as the Cost of Attendance, or COA.

Read these carefully as schools can use different letter templates. Our Award Letter Comparison tool can help you easily decipher these letters side-by-side.

If there’s been a change in your family’s financial circumstances since you’ve completed the FAFSA®, don’t panic. You may be able to appeal your financial aid award. You can appeal your financial aid package for a few reasons. Keep in mind, though, an appeal may not necessarily be granted, or the revised financial aid package may not meet your needs. But even if a school denies your appeal, they will not deny your admissions decision if you ask for more money.

Reasons to appeal your financial aid award

Reasons to appeal your financial aid award will need to be more substantive than “I want more money.” But there are many legitimate reasons why your information deserves another look by the financial aid office.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) uses your tax returns from two years prior to help determine your aid eligibility. A lot can happen in two years! And if your family’s finances have changed considerably since then you may need more aid than you’ve been offered. Some other factors that could impact a family’s ability to pay for college include:

  • Tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary school. If you have a sibling at an expensive private school, that may limit funds available for your college education.
  • Medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance.
  • Unusually high child care costs. If going to school means you have to put your child in an expensive daycare, this could cut into your available funds for tuition.
  • Reduction of wages or recent unemployment.
  • Number of parents enrolled in college at least half-time.
  • Changes in family income due to a parent death, divorce or separation.
  • Financial effects of a natural disaster.

How to write a financial aid appeal letter

If you’re going to appeal your award, the most important thing is to do it as soon as possible. Contact the financial aid office and find out the specifics of their process, which varies from one school to the next. It might include filling out an online form, or may require you to submit an appeal by mail or email.

When writing a financial aid appeal letter, format it like a business letter, and address it to someone at the financial aid office. Be as specific as possible in your request. For example, if your family has lost income or had outsized hospital bills, state the amounts and provide documentation. Get as specific as possible, and add as much documentation, such as tax returns, bills, or correspondence to back up your claim. Make sure your letter has a professional tone, and be gracious. After all, you’re asking for money!

If you don’t win your appeal

The best case scenario is that the financial aid office agrees to increase your aid amount. But if they don’t, you have options. You could start by expanding your scholarship search. You may also consider a less expensive school, or could start your college education at community college, save some money, and then transfer to a university. Or, you can apply for additional student loans to cover the remaining expenses.

FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover® Student Loans.

How helpful was this content?




More to Explore

Navigating financial aid

Navigating the financial aid process can seem daunting whether it's your first time in college or you are a returning student. Use these step-by-step instructions to help guide you through the process.

Interested in private student loans?

Learn More