How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award Letter

Financial Aid is a major emotional pain point for many talented youngsters and their families, and more awareness is needed about the value of "appeals". 

What are appeal letters?

The appeal letter is the letter you or your parent/guardian (whoever is paying for the majority of your schooling) writes to the office of financial aid in response to your award letter that showed you how much aid you will receive. 

The appeal letter is asking for more. 

"Too often families think of the financial aid award letter as being set in stone and not subject to appeal. Chances are there is some bit of information the financial aid office was unaware of when they calculated your financial aid package."

-Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research for 

Colleges and financial aid administrators have significant flexibility in deciding how to respond to appeals.

Call and ask what their process is (submit a form, send a letter etc) so you can appeal properly within their guidelines and give yourself the best chance. 

Remember, they will not know about a change in income or unusual expenses unless you tell them.

If you tell them about a change in income or unusual expenses you’ve incurred since submitting your FAFSA, they can make adjustments that can lead to a better financial aid package.

A good appeal letter is a sure fire way to get more money for college. 

So lets get right into it...

Here’s what is recommended by financial aid offices for a legitimate, successful appeal letter...

  • Clearly explain your reasons.

  • Provide evidnce 

  • Respectful, honest, and concise writing

  • Submit the financial aid appeal letter the right way.


The key to successful appeal letters is your REASONS. You have to have really good reasons why your asking for your financial aid package to be re-evaluated.


It is recommended by many financial aid administrators to start with a bullet list (for easy readability) of specific examples that are affecting your ability to pay for college. For example…

  • a parent losing a job

  • a divorce

  • a stream of income ending

  • natural disasters that resulted in losses

  • significant medical/dental expenses

  • care for a special needs family member

  • if the estimate for educational costs is significantly lower than the actual costs. 

For each of these, you should explain (in a concise manner) HOW it has affected your ability to pay.


Gather documentation and providing proof is essential.

Offices will ask for proof if it is not given with the appeal letter, so include it right up front. 

The best form of support documentation is from 3rd party sources. 


  • A paid medical bill or pay stubs showing a decrease in income.

  • Letters from other people, like an insurance agent or health professional who can speak to the family's situation.

  • Copies of more generous packages offered by other colleges

Lastly, be sure to mention in your letter that you are willing to provide whatever documentation is necessary to support your case. This shows that you’re serious and willing to work to provide proof for whatever they may need.


Here is an example…