Congratulations to all the college-bound students.  As you compare your student’s financial aid award letters, it is time to compare the net price of each college.  What do you do if your award letter is not financially what was expected?  Should a Financial Aid Appeal letter be sent and what is the process?

For some families, a change in your financial status may have occurred since the submission of your FAFSA and may not reflect your current income.  For this reason, I will be reviewing reasons for appealing your financial aid award letter and will be including a sample letter titled, “Financial Aid Appeal letter” to use as a guide.

Emotions can distort the financial consequence of this decision and add to the stress of comparing college award letters.  For many parents and students, this is the most important and maybe the most expensive decision they will make together.  For this reason, it is important to review the four-year cost of this decision when comparing your award letters.  This will help when you are developing your paying for college plan.

Reasons to Appeal Financial Aid Award Letter

There are several reasons or circumstances that may warrant a review of your award letter. Specifically, the family will need to list any financial changes that will hurt their ability to pay that college’s tuition.  Here are changes that may have occurred since filing the FAFSA.  Most of these events are due to a change in income or an increase in personal expenses.  Some of the possible reasons include:

  • Parent losing a job or reduction of income
  • Unexpected medical expenses
  • Death of a parent
  • A one-time increase in family’s income reflected in the based FAFSA year
  • Support of an elderly parent
  • Damage due to natural disaster
  • Divorce or Separation

Steps in the Appeal Process

The first step for a family should be to contact the financial aid office.  A family will need to determine the exact office and to whom the appeal letter should be sent. The appeal process is unique to each institution.  Most colleges have a specific form that needs to be completed while other institutions may just require a formal letter.

On your appeal letter, you will need to list the specific information about the student.  Typically, listed with the student’s name, you will also need to locate the student ID number located on the award letter.  Part of the process also includes finding the relevant dates needed to process the appeal.  As stated above, each school has their own process and dates that need to be followed.

It is the responsibility of the family to justify any changes with hard financial facts for any appeal.  For this reason, I always suggest that families include any financial numbers that show the adjustments in their income when submitting their appeal.  We recommend that your appeal letter be short, polite and concise.  It is highly recommended that the appeal include the numbers associated with the change.  This will help the reader during the appeal process.

The financial aid office may request further documentation to support your appeal request.  This means that third-party documentation of your adjusted income should be available to support your appeal.  One of the key documents to have ready is a family’s most current tax return.  Your current tax information was not used during your earlier FAFSA completion due to Prior Prior.  The current tax return may reflect any changes in income and improve your chance of success.  If you are considering appealing the financial award and are thinking about filing your taxes on extension, it may be a good idea to get them done during the appeal process.  As stated above, having the current information better supports the appeal.

This process may take several weeks to review and if approved the family would receive a revised financial aid award letter.

Professional Judgment Adjustment

During this process, a family may hear the word professional judgment in reference to their appeal.  This refers to the ability of the financial aid administrators at the college to make adjustments to a student’s federal aid (FAFSA – Official Site) based on special financial circumstances provided by the family.  It is important that the family knows that it is a professional judgment at that specific college and not all changes in financial circumstances will result in a positive financial adjustment for the student financial award.  Depending on the college, each result can be different and will be based on their financial situation and the need of the college for the student.

Financial Aid Appeal Letter Sample

To help you better understand how you should format your appeal letter, I am going to give you a specific family situation.

Family situation: 

A family filed taxes married/joint in tax year 2017.  One of the spouses was recently laid off and this change occurred after the FAFSA filing.  There is now a loss of income of $70,000 per year.  This family’s Federal (FAFSA) Expected Family Contribution or EFC was $42,406 using the tax year 2017.  If the college accepts the full impact of this loss of job, it could result in an EFC change of over $31,000.  This would result in a significant change in the financial award letter for the student.

Appeal Letter based on above scenario:


Financial Aid Committee

Name of College

Address of College

Dear Financial Aid Committee,

 My name is “Student Name”, and I will be a freshman student at your college beginning in September 2019.  Since submitting the FAFSA, my family has had a significant change in our financial position due to my mother losing her job in December of 2018. This has resulted in the following change:


  • Mother’s 2017 reported income on the FAFSA was $70,000. My mother was laid off from her job on 12/1/2018.  Attached is her lay off letter.


Due to the loss of income, the FAFSA submitted does not accurately depict our family’s current financial situation.  Our ability to pay for the current college expenses has been affected. Attached please find documentation that supports this extenuating circumstance. Thank you for reviewing our special situation and would appreciate a response to this request as soon as possible.


Thank you,


Student Name

Student ID number if available

Student Address

Student Phone Number

(Attach any financial documents that warrant a review of your financial changes)


If you are planning to appeal your financial aid award, I recommend that you start the process as soon as possible.  As other student’s decline their offers, there may be new college money available and that may result in a favorable financial outcome for you. Ultimately, the professional judgment of the college will determine if your appeal request is successful.  Providing the institution with the proper financial documents in a concise and easy to read appeal letter could be the key to your success.


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