Your financial aid award hinges upon your financial eligibility as figured by a standard formula. Unfortunately, that formula often does not represent a clear picture of your ability to pay for college because it does not consider extenuating personal circumstances. When the college of your choice offers you less financial aid than you need to attend the school, you may appeal the decision, often with good results.

Address your letter to the correct person. A quick call to the school can tell you the name of the head of the financial aid appeals committee. “Dear Mrs. Smith,” is more effective at drawing attention to your letter than addressing it to the department in general. In addition, edit and re-edit your letter to ensure it contains no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

Thank the college for its current offer of financial aid even if it’s only a fraction of what you need. In your opening sentence, mention the amount of the assistance and state how grateful you are for the offer but include the fact that you will still be unable to attend the school because you cannot make up the difference between its offer and the amount needed.

Lay out your case. This is the critical portion of your financial aid appeal letter, and you should use actual numbers to illustrate your situation. For instance, if the college is using your parent’s financial information to figure your award, demonstrate how your parents are unable to pay anything toward your educational goals.

List the amount the college advises your parents to pay upfront or take out an education loan for, then list the reasons that is not feasible. Some of these factors may include a mortgage, car payments and medical bills.

State your inability to attend the school if you do not receive a larger financial offer. Your wording is critical. For instance, you could say, “While I greatly appreciate your generous offer, I’m afraid I will be unable to attend unless my financial aid offer is substantially higher.”

Keep your entire letter gracious and humble. The committee is free to approve or deny your request, at its discretion, as long as there are additional funds available.


If your parents will not help you pay for college, inform the school. State your case clearly so the committee understands your financial situation. Call the financial aid department after two weeks to check the status of your appeal.


Ask, don’t demand. You’re more likely to receive additional assistance if you aren't pushy.

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