Congrats! You’ve been accepted into one of your top college choices! This is such an exciting time! But – we also know that it can be overwhelming if the financial aid offer that comes with that acceptance is less than you hoped for. You were so excited about this new opportunity and getting into the college of your dreams, but not knowing how you’re going to pay for it… that can really bring down the mood. While these offers can’t always be changed, there are a few scenarios where financial aid appeals are completely warranted and could get you far more aid than was originally offered. So, hold on and don’t worry too much yet. Read on to learn if you’re in a good position to start a financial aid appeal.

Today, we’re going to walk through a few scenarios where a financial aid appeal is warranted, as well as giving you some do’s and don’ts around financial aid appeals. Walking through the appeals process and following some of these guidelines could help you close the financial gap you need. We do want to say up front though that there are no guarantees in appeals and integrity and honesty are essential. Not only could misrepresenting your situation cost you the aid, but also the possible resending of the offer or even further legal trouble.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about what scenarios warrant an appeal!

Extenuating Circumstances

There are a lot of situations that can be included here:

Loss of employment

Significant loss of one time income (bonuses are an example of this).

Divorce or Separation

Death of a parent or sibling

Major out of pocket expenses like medical, surgery, etc.

You will need to provide significant proof for any of these through things like:

Pay stubs

Tax Returns and W2’s

Unemployment Benefits paperwork

Copy of divorce proceedings

Death certificate

Loss of one-time income source proof

Documentation of medical bills not covered by insurance

Each school’s appeal process is different, so the types of proof or documentation they want will also vary. This is a general list though of what you may be asked to provide based on your specific situation.

Change in Circumstances

This is not much different than extenuating circumstances but does apply more to things like:

Change in job/employment (which may have resulted in lower income)

Change in address (so that you can apply to receive in-state tuition)

As well the other situation listed previously.

The same types of documentation and proof will need to be provided during the appeals process with this situation as well.

Merit of the Offer

Some colleges will consider appeals based upon other reasons and often will sweeten the deal especially if you are well positioned and competitive. Here are some common scenarios that could warrant an appeal and further consideration:

The original offer amount was well below what an average student receives from that particular school.

The school overlooked an award that you know, based upon your academic merits, test scores, or other reasons, you’re eligible for…such as listed on their website.

Asking for a professional judgment appeal to adjust the EFC based on a change in income (like a change in a parent’s job or an inaccessible trust).

Other school’s that have accepted you gave more competitive financial aid offers. This can be used as competitive leverage to get a better offer. With this, it’s important to be mindful of the types of schools the other offers came from and to also be prepared for a school not increasing simply because of this.

These are all reasons you can also appeal to a certain school. Again, we really want to emphasize the necessity of integrity, objectivity, and providing proof of why you are deserving of additional financial aid. You need to stay objective and prove why you deserve additional aid.

You Just Don’t Like the Offer

In order to get the needle moved, you will have to demonstrate the value that has not been seen yet or has been overlooked. Colleges are a business at the end of the day and it’s all about what’s in it for the college. So, if none of the other scenarios apply to you, you’ll need to really think through how you can demonstrate value to get additional aid.

Most every college has an appeals process and each college’s appeals process is different. You’ll need to contact the admissions and financial aid offices in order to learn what their process and specific requirements are so that you can get started on it as soon as possible.

Do’s and Don’ts:

DO Keep it objective. Demonstrate that you are gracious and thankful, yet you feel there are objective reasons for why you are appealing.

DO carefully craft your appeal and show the personal value that you can bring to a given school with a greater financial commitment.

DO be honest and backup everything you put in your appeal letter.

DON’T embellish, fudge or say anything that isn’t factual.

DON’T Call it “negotiating.” The appropriate term is an appeal.

DON’T just ask for more money, ask for a specific amount while providing proof that shows you would be more successful with.

Even with all this guidance, appeals can be tricky. Knowing how to go about them, writing a compelling letter and actually getting more aid at the end is easier said than done. We’ve helped many students through this process and we’d love to help you too! Just shoot us a message to get started!

While we certainly have tried to share some invaluable insights and experience, it’s important to remember that appeals can be extremely tricky. While it’s rare that you could lose money as a result of an appeal, the experience is often invaluable. Knowing how to go about the process, writing compelling letters and successfully building a case that yields more aid is easier said than done. We strongly suggest consulting a professional for feedback and guidance. Like many scenarios in life, professional guidance can prove to be invaluable, especially if they have a proven track record.

As always, if you have questions, need feedback, or just want to make sure you are on the right track, just shoot us a message. We just want to make sure you Win the College Game, and get your fair share of the 6 Million in gift aid our clients enjoyed last year.