Let’s say you’ve filed your FAFSA®, received your financial aid offer, and are enjoying the semester. Then, you’re notified that your financial aid has been taken away. You’re probably wondering why you lost it—and how you can get it back.
Here’s what you should know about financial aid eligibility:
Why financial aid offers may be revoked or lost
Before we look at the reasons why financial aid may be revoked, let’s review some of the Department of Education’s basic eligibility requirements.footnote 1
- Have a demonstrated financial need
- Be a U.S. citizen, eligible non-citizen, or have a green card
- Be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible degree or certificate program
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress (SAP)
- Not be in default on a federal student loan
- Agree that you’ll use federal student aid only for education purposes
- Show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career school degree
Every year you receive financial aid, you must continue to meet these criteria. If you don’t, the school might withdraw their assistance. Here are several other common reasons why financial aid might be withdrawnfootnote 2:
What to do if you’ve lost a financial aid offer
Don’t panic, but don’t put off taking action, either. Many schools will send a warning if it looks like you’re failing the SAP requirement, but it helps to be proactive. Talk to your school’s financial aid office about whether you have a valid case and for advice on how to appeal.
Here are a few ways you can try to get back lost financial aid:
- Talk to the pros. Go to your school’s financial aid office right away. They’ve got experience with this and can suggest alternatives or ways to re-apply for the aid.
- Consider a tutor: If grades are the problem, you can see if tutoring programs are available on campus.
- Appeal the SAP decision. If your SAP is not satisfactory, they can withdraw your financial aid eligibility, but it is possible to appeal an SAP decision. If there were legitimate causes for your academic decline, you can file an appeal with your school. You need to clearly and specifically describe—with proof—what caused your academic decline.footnote 3
Examples of reasons that can cause a decline include:
- Personal changes, like the birth of a child or a death in your family
- Severe physical injury or psychological problems, especially if the condition is being treated medically
- Financial circumstances, like a lack of money forcing you to drop out or move off-campus
- If you’re in your final semester, some schools may waive the SAP requirement if it looks like you’ll graduate
If your issues are ongoing, you might need to take a leave of absence. Note, however, that you may not be automatically eligible for financial aid when you come back. On the other hand, if you’re working on correcting the issue that caused your grades to decline, a school may decide that you’re on the right track to bring grades up again next semester.
- Correct any previous defaultsfootnote 4. Make sure you’re current with any existing student loans. This may include “rehabilitating” a federal Direct Loan, which may let you pay a lower amount, or consolidating the loan. Contact your loan servicer to find out what options are available to you.
Appealing the financial aid decision
Can you get your financial aid back? It depends. If you can correct the issue (bring your grades up, take more classes, clear up defaults, etc.) then you may be eligible for it again—but probably not for the semester when you’re making the changes. Don’t assume that you’ll get it automatically even after you’ve made changes. Here are some tips on how to get your financial aid back and conduct the appeal:
If you do decide to appeal the school’s decision, you’ll need to write a “financial aid appeal letter.”
- Find out from your financial aid office who the letter should be addressed to and if there are any specific forms you should use.
- Be very specific—and honest—about the situation and how this impacted your academic performance.
- Add documentation to your letter that proves the situation and the impact on your life. If you’ve paid off a previous default, add that paperwork. If you’re experiencing a physical or psychological situation, add proof from your doctors, medical bills, etc.
If you’ve lost financial aid and can’t get it back
Even if you’re approved for future financial aid, it probably won’t be for another semester. So, you’ll need to find a way to fill that gap so you can keep paying for school. You can check with your school to see if there’s a payment plan so you can pay over a few months instead of all at once.
If you need money for next semester, there are a few possibilities:
- Apply for private scholarships. There are a ton of resources out there to help you find money for school you won't have to pay back. For example, Scholly by Sallie,* the top college scholarship app, has helped students find millions of dollars in scholarships. Best part? It’s free and super easy to use. Simply tell Scholly Search® about your interests, background, and accomplishments and you can get matched with scholarships in just minutes. Then start applying.
- Look for a part-time job. A part-time gig may help you pay for part of your housing, or other expenses like textbooks and supplies. Be mindful that you’ll need to balance work with your studies so you’re not jeopardizing your grades.
- Apply for a private student loan. It’s not tied to your financial aid eligibility and may be available even if you’re attending school less than part-time. Private student loans are credit-based, so you may need a cosigner.
Summary: Getting back your financial aid
- The key to maintaining your financial aid? Don’t lose it in the first place. Make sure you know what your school expects of you, including the minimum GPA and credit load required.
- If you think you might lose your financial aid, talk to your school’s financial aid office ASAP. Whether it’s raising your grades or taking more classes, you may be able to get ahead of the decision.
- If you have an acceptable reason for falling short of SAP requirements, you might be able to appeal the loss of your financial aid. The appeal needs to be specific and include proof that the situation really did impact your grades.
- If you need funding to make up for the temporary loss of financial aid, private scholarships and/or private student loans might help you pay for the semester until you’re eligible for financial aid again.