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Financial Aid

Appealing for a More Appealing Financial Aid Award

Updated January 10, 2023
How to get more financial aid

Paying for college is not cheap nowadays, so financial aid helps make going to their preferred college possible for many students. The very first step is to fill out the FAFSA and list the schools they’re interested in attending (already filled out the FAFSA? Click here for next steps). Since so many factors go into your financial aid package, you never really know what you’re going to get…


I recently filled out the FAFSA and my daughter got into the schools she wanted – WOO HOO! Oh, but wait…. we didn’t receive the amount of aid we anticipated. Just like with many of you reading this, not getting the aid we thought we would was disappointing, and it also means my daughter may not be able to go to her preferred school…

Thankfully, the first offer  from a school is not always set in stone, and we plan to do something about it.


Write a financial aid appeal letter


The money a school offers initially is just that… an offer.  Since this offer doesn’t cover enough for my daughter to attend, she’s/we’re writing an appeal letter to the school’s financial aid office expressing her interest in attending their school, while also letting them know she needs more money to pay for college.


How can the school give more money?


Well, since there are some prospective students offered aid that won’t end up attending this school, it frees up the money that was originally allocated to them. These funds can then be redistributed to others, like you.


How do I start and what should I include in the letter?


First, we’re contacting the school’s financial aid department to find out who the recipient should be and whether we should mail or email it.

  • When writing our short and sweet letter (no more than one page), here are a few important things we’ll include:
  • Who we are and where we’re re from
  • How grateful we are for our daughter’s acceptance and how interested she is in the school
  • Why the school is a great fit for her
  • An explanation in a polite and straightforward manner why we need the money. We’ll outline our financial situation by providing specific details and actual figures. Basically, we are demonstrating why we need addition funds to fill the gap. (This is especially important for anyone who’s financial situation has changed since submitting the FAFSA.)
  • We have a higher offer from another school, so we’ll respectfully ask them to match it.
  • Any details that demonstrate her strengths as a student and ability to succeed at their institution.
  • Show appreciation for the aid that she was already offered and for the school reconsidering her appeal. A few “thank you’s” go a long way.

Important tip: make sure to write and send the letter as soon as possible, because the school’s funds will get used up – either by you, me or someone else. And I’m pretty sure you want it to be you. 😉


Is it worth the time and effort?


Um… YEAH! 100%! An hour or so of writing may = hundreds or thousands of dollars to pay for college!

And if it doesn’t work, then you’re out just a little bit of your time. If it does work, awesome! The only way you’ll know is if you try. So why not?! Go for it!

If you want help with your letter, there’s a free (yes, free!) tool, SwiftStudent to help you. According to SwiftStudent, “It is a free, foundation-baked resource designed with college students and financial aid officers.”


It didn’t work (sigh), now what?


Well, you still have a couple of options:

  • apply for scholarships
  • apply for loans – federal (apply for these first – find more info here) and/or private student loans
  • attend a school that costs less
  • attend a school that offers you more aid


Ultimately, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by writing an appeal letter. After all, it may mean paying less interest in loans after graduation, and it may make the difference between going to your preferred school or not. SO… give it a shot.