How to Appeal Your Financial Aid Award
Are you considering an appeal of your financial aid award?
For clarity, financial aid appeals are officially called “Requests for Reconsideration” by offices of financial aid. Therefore, be sure to use the correct term, “request for reconsideration”, when you contact an office of financial aid or the clerk might not know what you mean. However, in this article, we’ll simply refer to them as appeals.
Step 1: Determine If You Have a Viable Case for Your Appeal.
Appeals of your financial aid award are most successful when one of two conditions exist:
- There has been a significant change in your family’s financial situation since you filed the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile, or
- Future expenditures will impact your family’s ability to pay your expected contribution amount
Because the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile measured past, historical financial data, any recent or new expenditures owning to “special circumstances” counts as new information that can adjust your financial aid award. Examples of special circumstances include:
- Investments into by your family business that affect your take home pay
- The actual (or anticipated) unemployment of a parent
- The salary reduction of a parent
- Death of a wage earner
- High medical bills
- Unusually high child care costs
- Unusual capital losses
- New private elementary or secondary school tuition costs (of the student’s siblings)
- An increase in the number of the student’s siblings attending college
- Parents are also enrolled in college
Step 2: Contact Your College’s Financial Aid Office.
Talking with a financial aid officer can help you understand your college’s specific appeal process (e.g. the formalities and guidelines of the appeal, types of supporting documentation requested, etc.) and explore other cost management options that might exist for you.
Although every school has different strategies for determining how much financial resources they can make available to each family, Pratt Institute (an art college) offers a good example of what specific kinds of evidence may be required by colleges, in general, in order for different types of appeal attempts to be successful. Click here and scroll down to the section titled “Financial Aid Award Letter Appeals.”
Step 3: Prepare Your Written Appeal.
Because appeals should be supported by material facts and numbers, be prepared to provide documentation that supports your request. For example, income statements and expense records that support your special circumstances. You may even need to provide financial projections if you’re citing a future expenditure as the new information. Your letter should summarize the unusual circumstances and stick to the plain facts because any award adjustment will be primarily fact-driven and numbers-driven.