If you are not happy with the financial aid package you’ve been offered, you do not have to settle for it. You have the option to appeal for more financial aid.
The first thing you need to do is come up with a plan. Study your college’s financial aid appeals process to know how to make your case. A common and effective way to do this is to write a direct letter to your financial aid office. Some colleges have a form to fill out.
These steps will guide you through the appeals process:
- Be as specific as possible when describing your financial situation. The financial aid office cannot help you if your appeal is too vague. Instead of saying you do not have enough money to cover tuition, you must explain why. Include facts, dates, figures and any other specifics that might help your case. Although you want to include details, keep the letter short. Do not bog it down with personal stories — write just the facts that affect your ability to pay. Be sure the amount you are asking for is reasonable as well. If a college thinks you are asking for too much, they may reject your appeal.
- List evidence and provide third-party documentation to back up your situation. Job loss, salary reduction, death of a wage earner or expenses for a special-needs child are among some of the reasons you could appeal need-based aid. Bills and receipts, letters of termination and bank statements are great examples of documentation. If you are looking to appeal for more merit-based aid, you can include a copy of a higher offer from another college, additional letters of recommendation or grades and awards. When the U.S. Department of Education audits colleges, they look at professional judgement appeals. They want to make sure any increase in financial aid is backed up by documentation.
- Mail your letter to the correct office. Contact the college and make sure you have the correct office. If you are sending a letter to appeal for more need-based financial aid, the letter should go to the financial aid office. If you are appealing for merit-based scholarships, contact the enrollment or admissions office. Explain to whoever you speak to that you want to initiate a Professional Judgement Review, which is the official term for an institution’s ability to review a student’s financial aid package and potentially increase it due to special circumstances. Do not try to begin the appeal over the phone – you just need to verify where to send the letter.
- Follow up. If you have not received a response to your letter within a week, follow up with the appropriate office. But remember, just because you are appealing your package, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed more money. Some colleges do not negotiate. The decision whether to make an adjustment to your financial aid package is entirely up to the college. But with a well-written letter, you will have a better chance at success.