Financial Aid Award Letters
Last updated: February 10th, 2023

How to Write an Appeal

You may qualify for more financial aid money and can request an appeal

Based on how you filled out the FAFSA, the government and the school you applied to decided that you needed a certain amount of money. However, there are some circumstances where you actually qualify for more money and should submit an “appeal” to the financial aid office at your college.

Tip: If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of the circumstances listed below, you should submit an appeal. When you’re ready to appeal, we recommend using SwiftStudent to do so.

Death in the family

If someone in your immediate family who was a parent or guardian passed away last year, that means you’ve lost a parent or guardian’s income. This loss can dramatically change your family’s finances. You may qualify for a Special Circumstances Appeal because the financial aid documents you completed did not capture the financial difficulty you are now facing.

Serious illness

Serious illness or disability can result in big medical bills. If your family had to cover large medical bills over the past year, you may qualify for an Emergency Aid Appeal.

Divorce or separation

If your parents got divorced or separated since they submitted their previous year’s taxes and this has affected your family’s ability to pay for college, you may qualify for a Parental Income Exclusion Request or a Special Circumstances Appeal.

Lost a job or source of income

If someone in your immediate family lost their job and was out of work for a significant period of time in the past year, you may qualify for a Special Circumstances or Emergency Aid Appeal. Loss of job also also includes being laid off, a reduction in work hours, loss of job due to retirement, and loss of job due to incarceration.

If your family has lost income from a rental property, alimony, or court settlement, this would also be grounds for an appeal.

Grandparent or other relative moved in

If a grandparent or other relative moved into your home in the past year and your family is now covering the majority of their expenses, you may qualify for a Special Circumstances or Emergency Aid Appeal.

Research the appeal process

Here are some things to note about the process of appealing:

  • While each school has a different appeal process, you will need to submit a written letter and proof of your family’s special circumstance in your application. To find instructions for how to appeal, Google the name of your school plus the words appeal financial aidor call/email your school’s financial aid office. The college profiles in DecidED include links to each college’s financial aid office.
  • Appeals are not guaranteed. They are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by financial aid officers.
  • If your appeal is approved, you could be awarded more grants, more work study, or more student-friendly loans.
  • Don’t wait! Submit your appeal as soon as possible, because it will take time to gather the documents you need and will take weeks for the school to process the appeal.

Tip: It’s important to write a strong appeal letter with good proof of your special circumstances. SwiftStudent provides templates for appeal letters that you can download, edit, and send to your school’s financial aid office.

Follow up on your appeal letter

Tracking your appeal letter is your responsibility. After you send your appeal letter online or via email, be sure to follow up with a phone call to confirm the school’s financial aid office received it.

Questions you can ask when you follow up:

  • “Did you receive my appeal letter? Can you confirm the date that it was received?”
  • “Approximately how long will it be before I hear a response? How will you tell me the results? Via email, online, or a phone call?”
  • “I would like to check in on the status in two weeks. Who should I reach out to, and what is their title, email, and phone number?”
  • “Are there any other options available to me if my appeal is denied?”