Click here to hear my complete interview about how to win a financial aid appeal letter with financial aid expert Jodi Okun, who has helped thousands of families navigate the college financial planning process and contributed one of the financial aid request letter samples in this post.
So you’ve been accepted to a great college (yay!) only to find out the school isn’t giving you enough money (womp womp). What do you do? Accept your fate? Resign yourself to attending your back-up school? Start a GoFundMe campaign?
Maybe. But first...
You gotta’ wonder: Is this ALL the money the school can offer me? Could it be that, if you ask nicely and write a financial aid letter request, then the school just might give you a little more?
True story: When I asked Northwestern for more money the school gave me more money AND THAT LED TO THE BEST FOUR YEARS OF MY LIFE. In fact, I only spent about $4,000 per year. Caveat: I had a zero EFC (Estimated Family Contribution), so much of it was need-based aid, but still! If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have gotten more money and probably wouldn’t have gone there.
Real-talk: Asking people for money is hard. I get weird sometimes just asking friends to chip in for pizza. And it can be especially difficult when your college future is on the line.
But consider doing it. Because, well, your college future might be on the line.
Why should you consider writing a financial aid letter request?
- you can write a financial aid appeal letter in like an hour, and
- it may be the fastest $2,000 (or $8,000) you ever make
- if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
When should I make a financial aid appeal letter request?
As soon as you can. Because when the money’s gone, it’s gone. So, like, now.
How do I write one?
I’m about to tell you. But before I do I thought I’d bring in some help.
In Episode 103 of the College Essay Guy podcast I spoke with Jodi Okun, financial aid guru and author of the Amazon bestseller Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro.
We talked about everything from whether or not to include house and retirement when reporting assets on the FAFSA to how decisions are sometimes made in a financial aid office. But the main topic of our conversation was appeal letters--what they are, who should write one, and what to literally say to a financial aid officer when calling to make an appeal. Here’s one of my favorite bits of advice from Jodi on the importance of allowing for a pause in conversation when appealing to a financial aid officer:
“Parents have an agenda about what they want to say, but financial aid offices have a process they have to follow with every folder on their desk,” Jodi says. “You may think the next step is one thing but they may give you another step which might get you further in your appeal.”
Below you’ll find a few great financial aid request letter samples--one from my former student and a couple from families Jodi worked with--with analysis and suggestions on how to write your own appeal letter. Underneath that you’ll find some links to some financial aid resources you don’t want to miss.
What happened - what has changed
Your satisfactory academic progress (SAP) appeal explanation must include the following:
Explain what happened
Why were you unable to maintain satisfactory progress?
Explain what has changed
What corrective measures have you taken or will you take to achieve and maintain satisfactory academic progress?
If this not your first appeal:
- Your explanation statement must include information about what has changed since your last appeal.
- You must also attach a Student Improvement Plan signed by your advisor.
Tips for writing your appeal explanation statement
Admit the problem
Take a hard look at your situation to determine what has kept you from making satisfactory academic progress. Perhaps you need help with time management or study skills. Admit the problem and explain how will you get that help.
Note: Lack of awareness of withdrawal policies, requirements for satisfactory academic progress or unpreparedness for college coursework will not be accepted as reasons for the purpose of an appeal.
Attach any relevant supporting documentation
- This may include a doctor's statement, copy of hospital/urgent care/physician's bill, obituary, funeral notice or death certificate.
Valid reasons for an SAP appeal
Valid reasons for an appeal include:
- medical emergencies
- severe health issues
- severe personal or family problems
- financial or personal catastrophe
- return for a second degree or certificate
Example of a valid explanation statement:
- Your appeal must be backed up by a degree worksheet or degree audit and an academic plan of work.
- You must also be able to show through your GPA calculation results that meeting SAP standards and graduating from your program is an attainable goal.
For instructions and information about formulating a plan of work, degree audit or utilizing the GPA calculator, visit the Students page or use Degree Works in Academica. Ifyou are a graduate student log in to the Student Tracking Advising Retention System (STARS).
Please note: The Office of Student Financial Aid is required to report incidents of sexual violence or sexual harassment disclosed through this form to the Title IX Coordinator for follow-up and possible investigation. If you have experienced any form of sexual violence and would like to speak confidentially to a counselor for support, please contact Counseling and Psychological Services by phone at (313) 577-3398 or by visiting Suite 552 in the Student Center Building.