1. Review your financial aid offer(s)
You may have gone over your financial aid offer a million times already, but what’s once more? Before you start asking for more aid, you need to know exactly what you’re eligible for. Here are some steps to consider before you call the financial aid office.
- Compare your financial aid offers: First, go through all the aid you’ve been offered from each school you were accepted to. This federal aid can include grants, work-study, and federal student loans.
- Figure out how your scholarships will be treated: Make sure you know whether any scholarships you’ve received from somewhere other than the college will impact your overall financial aid package. Some schools will deduct financial aid if you’ve already received outside scholarships. If you’re not sure how outside scholarships affect your financial aid package, reach out to your financial aid office.
- Consider renewable financial aid: Find out which financial aid is renewable. Renewable aid is financial aid you can be offered each year you’re in school. For example, a school that offers you $5,000 each year for four years is, generally, giving you a better deal than a school that gives you $10,000 for just your freshman year.
- Think about how a job or work-study comes into play: If you qualify for work-study, compare the money you’d make through that to how much you could make working an off-campus job or internship.
- Understand how much financial aid you need: Now that you have all the data, subtract your financial aid offers from the total cost of attendance (COA), including the cost of books, supplies, and transportation, at each of the schools you’re considering. This is the number you need for comparison and for appealing your financial aid offer.
2. Call the financial aid office to plan your next steps
First, ask for descriptions of any words you don’t understand from your financial aid offer. This might be your first time going to school, and it’s normal to not know everything you’ve been offered. The financial aid office is the perfect place to get any of your questions answered.
Then, ask if there are any other scholarships through the school you could apply for. Some schools may have extra money set aside for their own grants and scholarships programs to attract students who are considering going to a different school. Or, there may be scholarships you didn’t apply for that are right up your alley. Make sure you call the financial aid office ASAP so you don’t miss any deadlines for submission.
After that, you can ask about the process of appealing for more financial aid. Find out what forms you’ll need to fill out and what the deadlines are.
3. Continue with a financial aid appeal letter
To appeal your financial aid, you might have to write a letter and send it to your school. If your finances have changed since you submitted the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), this is your chance to explain why you need a new offer.
Some reasons why your financial situation may have changed are:
- Your family has been affected by death, a lost job, parent divorce/separation, or another occurrence
- Losing a family member impacts the family in so many ways. If this happens to you, you should definitely appeal your financial aid offer.
- Whether an immediate family member was laid off, had their work hours reduced, becomes incarcerated, or retires, you should consider appealing.
- If you’re a dependent of divorced parents, you’re required to include the financial information of the parent you live with, which can affect how much aid you receive. A school may also be willing to adjust your financial aid offer due to a change in income or household size if your parents are recently divorced or separated.
- Income loss due to changes with things like a rental property, alimony, or a court settlement are also grounds for you to appeal your financial aid offer.
- Medical reasons
- If an immediate family member has an illness, injury, or disability that significantly impacts your family’s finances, you have a good case for a financial aid appeal.
- A change in child support or Social Security benefits
- Expenses from a natural disaster
If any of these apply to you, the financial aid office may ask you to submit a special circumstances form. Make sure you gather any documents you may need to support your claims—these can be medical bills, tax returns, police records, and more.
Additionally, if you’ve received better offers from other schools, let this school know that they’re your #1 pick. They might offer you more money to convince you to choose them.
4. Follow up with the school
It may be tempting to follow up with the financial aid office a day after you submit your appeal, but patience is key. After waiting for 1 to 2 weeks, feel free to call them back and check on the progress of your appeal. They’ll let you know if everything is going as planned, or if the process has been halted because there’s more information you need to provide. If there’s anything more you need to do for your appeal, make sure to submit everything as soon as you can to prevent any further delay.
Appealing financial aid is worth a shot
It doesn’t hurt to call the financial aid office—you might just get a better offer. The worst thing they can say is no. If so, scholarships, a part-time job, or a private student loan will become your best friends. Just make sure you are prepared for the appeal process with all the information you need, know exactly what you need to ask for, and wait and see.