Updated April 5, 2023

Seeking More Financial Aid to Cover College Costs

Looking for more money from the financial aid awards you received? Under certain circumstances, it might be a good idea to appeal your financial aid.

Appealing Financial Aid Awards

Your family is past the waiting game of getting into colleges and has waded through a sea of information to try and understand your financial aid awards, but now you wonder – is this really enough? Can you obtain more financial aid to help you pay for college? The short answer is, maybe! The only way to know for sure is to go through the process of a financial aid appeal. Parents and students should work together through this process.

Financial Aid

Why File an Appeal?

The aim of an appeal is to get schools to reconsider the financial aid package they offered you, for two main reasons:

  • Your financial situation has significantly changed, or
  • You have competing financial aid offers from similar schools

You may have thought that the financial aid awards you received are the final and only offer from schools, but that’s not the case.

Financial Aid Officers and Admissions Officers can adjust your award amount.

More specifically, for need-based changes, Financial Aid Officers can adjust the data in your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on new information about your situation. Then, they can create an updated aid package that takes into account the family’s current demonstrated need. 

During the application process, the Expected Family Contribution was calculated on family income from two years prior, so any more recent changes in circumstances represent an opportunity for an appeal.

For merit-based requests, schools want to know you are serious about attending and that additional aid can get you to enroll. So, it’s important for students to have demonstrated interest in a school such as by following them on social media, reading their emails, participating in interviews, etc. Then, by sharing your competing aid offers from other similar schools, it makes more of a case for the Admissions Officer to boost your merit award to drive your enrollment.

Although very few schools provide aid that covers 100% of your costs, some schools, mostly private (not Ivy League), will be open to providing additional aid.

While schools must manage within their budgets, they also remain focused on enrollment management. They want to get new students in the door, so sweetening financial aid offers, potentially by a few thousand dollars, can be a win-win for schools and families.

Families should consider starting their financial aid appeal as soon as possible – as soon as the award is received. Some schools may take a while to reply, but most will reply in about four to six weeks.

How to file a financial aid appeal

In order to gain additional financial aid, you will need to connect with the school to share your story.

Each school has its own appeals process. A good starting point is to check the school’s website for the specifics. You may be directed to email or call them to provide your information or fill out additional forms.

Schools are not looking for a sales pitch from you. Rather, they need insight and specific data that they did not have during the application process.

For a need-based financial aid appeal, clearly identify what has changed since you completed the FAFSA filing. What circumstances have impacted your family income that were out of your control? What is the specific amount of lost income? Examples of major events include unemployment, reduction of work hours, death of a spouse/parent, or divorce. You can also identify any changes in household expenses due to unexpected events such as healthcare issues or medical debt.

In addition to identifying the change in circumstances, providing documentation that supports your claim is a key requirement of this process. Consider providing any type of third-party documentation, like receipts or letters from others who are familiar with your financial situation.

College Just Ahead

You Have the Final Say

The financial aid appeals process is yet another piece of the puzzle in trying to keep your family’s college costs in check, so you can actually pay for college.

Colleges create financial aid packages based on information they have on hand at the time of application. And their focus is primarily on working within their budgets and meeting their enrollment needs. A financial aid appeal gives you a voice in the process because you’re able to provide current and competitive information.

Your ability to garner more aid dollars requires additional work and persistence on your part. There are no guarantees that an appeal for more financial aid will be successful, but it does not hurt to try since you will not lose out on your original aid award.

Remember, you have the final say in school selection and managing your costs. If your aid package from a school is not sufficient to meet your needs, talk with the Financial Aid Office to find out if there are more options. And, it’s also OK to say ‘No’ and move on if a school is not a good financial fit.

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