The financial aid appeal letter may be the most under-utilized step in the college admissions process.
I say that because they can actually work (when the appeal letter is written in the most effective manner possible), with the very real potential of increasing your student’s financial aid package.
That’s why my team and I have put together a full briefing on the topic – including 6 key strategies we share with our clients, often with great success.
Not All College Letters are Good...Nor Are They Bad
It’d be pretty naïve to think that every college-related piece of mail you open up is going to contain good news.
Rejection letters are sent out just as often as acceptance ones. Sometimes even more often. It’s the very clear risk you take when applying to schools.
But in the happy event that your student DOES get accepted to the college of their choice… there’s still a risk of some not-so-sunny news coming down the pike.
I’m talking about the letter you’ll receive revealing your college financial aid award from a college or university.
There are plenty of reasons why you might not receive the financial aid package you feel you deserve or need to afford tuition costs.
New students applying for the first time might be looked at as coming from a family who simply doesn’t demonstrate a strong enough need for assistance (this often can be a result of not filling out the aid form effectively enough.)
Returning students can see their financial aid revoked if their academic performance isn’t up to snuff, or if they’re facing disciplinary action by the school.
Luckily there’s still an option left to you either way: writing a financial aid appeal letter to the school’s financial aid office.
A well written letter that highlights valid and effective reasons you feel a reconsideration of your aid package is warranted can definitely help your cause. But don’t just dash off an angry note demanding more money! Take your time and do it right. It can make all the difference.
Things to keep in mind when pleading your case to the financial aid office
- Find out exactly who your letter will be read by. It helps to address it directly to that person by name and not just “sir or madam.” It’ll show you’ve taken the time to research the situation and that you’re serious about attending the school if possible.
- Clearly explain what specific circumstances have affected your family’s financial situation and have impacted your ability to contribute towards your student’s college expenses. Include specific details of the circumstance. For example, if you have had a significant amount of medical or dental expenses in the previous year, be sure to include the total amount paid out-of-pocket, the date and reason for treatment, and if you expect similar costs in the upcoming year. Attaching supporting documentation, such as an itemized list of the medical expenses along with receipts, is helpful.
- If the student’s second choice school has offered a significantly greater amount of aid, explain this in the letter to add some leveraging power. Just be sure not to come off too aggressive (“School X offered us $5,000 more a year then you did, so if you don’t match that – we’re walking!”). No one likes to be threatened.
- Include any recent achievements/awards that the student has received since applying for admission to help them stand out from other college applicants. Remember, schools want students to sell themselves. The more a student can offer to a college, the more they’ll be willing to do to get them.
- Check with the college’s financial aid office to see if they have any specific requirements and/or deadlines for an appeal. Many colleges have their own eligibility criteria for an appeal (for example, the school may only take unemployment into consideration if the parent has been unemployed for at least 10 weeks). Furthermore, most schools require additional information such as an institutional Special Circumstance Form, verification material, and supporting documentation. If so, these materials must be submitted along with the appeal letter in order for the school to proceed with the re-evaluation process.
- After sending the letter, follow up with the school a few days later to confirm they received the material and no additional information is needed.
Above all, remain humble and gracious throughout your letter. Thank the school for accepting your student and for the aid they’ve already offered. Express your desire for your child to attend the college, but also emphasize the fact that if the aid package is not increased, it won’t be possible for them to do so.
As long as additional aid funds are available, it’s within the realm of possibility that a school can increase their award to your student.
You never know until you ask, so if it’s a make or break situation, do yourself a favor and ask!