Financial Aid Appeal
You’ve taken the first step in obtaining financial aid towards your degree program by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Congratulations if your college financial aid administrator has approved your award. But what if your award is not as much as you expected? What do you do now? Financial Aid Appeal is something you can do to make a case for a higher award. First, remember that FAFSA® is a general form used by most colleges and universities. However, there is no space on the form for your family to describe any special circumstances that may affect their ability to pay for college. And, once the form has been submitted, only college financial aid administrators are allowed to adjust the data fields on the FAFSA, when you provide them with adequate documentation of your special circumstances. In this guide, we will walk you through how to appeal your financial aid decision, make corrections to your FAFSA form along with what happens if the appeal is denied.
What Are You Allowed to Correct on the FAFSA?
Corrections to the FAFSA form means altering any information for accuracy, verification, or status updates. Students can make FAFSA modifications without help by correcting a Student Aid Report (SAR) or submitting an updated FAFSA online. Data you can correct yourself include:
- Incorrect Social Security Number
- Mistakes on the Form
How to Make Corrections to FAFSA?
- Log on to the FAFSA website with your FSA ID
- Choose the “make FAFSA corrections” option
- If needed change contact information and/or dependency status for changes that do not relate to marriage
Start by consulting the college financial aid administrator to determine if a FAFSA needs updating. Additionally, if you have a marital change, you should reach out to financial aid departments to determine how the change impacts the dependency status.
When you submit a FAFSA, it should represent your situation on the day of your application. For this reason, students should only update certain FAFSA sections beyond contact information and only in specific circumstances, such as verification. If unsure, candidates should ask their financial aid departments about updating the following sections:
- Your Dependency Status
- Number of People in Your Household
- Number of College Students in Your Household
Applicants should leave the majority of the FAFSA fields unchanged since the document reflects your situation at first submission. Candidates can also make corrections on the SAR or ask financial aid departments to update a FAFSA. FAFSA deadlines vary by state, so applicants should research state requirements to ensure punctual submission
How to Appeal Financial Aid
Appealing for more financial aid means contacting your college financial aid administrator to request financial assistance beyond the originally offered amount. A financial aid overseer must approve an appeal, and school policies may insist students submit a letter and documents that prove special circumstances. Essentially, an appeal requires more effort from the applicant and more involvement from the financial aid department.
Appeal processes vary among schools, with institutions requiring specific forms, documents, and verification. For this reason, you should contact financial aid departments to determine your schools’ policies and preferred steps. Since students receive many forms of financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, applicants should complete and return all appeal elements as soon as possible.
Departments approve appeals one year at a time, so a student may need to submit an appeal every year to continue earning additional aid. However, departments may require documentation to prove that the special circumstance, that impacted the student’s finances, still applies.
Special Circumstances include any financial circumstances that have changed in the last two years or anything that differentiates the student from typical students. The ten most common special circumstances include:
Job loss or decrease in income
Divorce or separation of a dependent student’s parents
Death of a dependent student’s parent
Special needs or disabled children
Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses
Catastrophic loss, such as damage or loss from a natural disaster
Textbook costs beyond the standard allowance in the cost of attendance
Change in the student’s marital status
End of child support, Social Security benefits for a child or alimony payments
How to write an appeal for financial aid?
Step 1 – Assess Your Circumstances
Only special situations will qualify you to be awarded more financial aid. This includes a change in college-attending household members, divorce, and disability. You can ask financial aid departments for information to determine if your situation qualifies for appeal.
Step 2 – Contact the School’s Financial Aid Department
Each school requires different steps for filing financial aid appeals. For information on the appeal process, you should contact your school’s financial aid office.
Step 3 – Collect Needed Documentation
Provide documents that verify your special circumstances, including evidence of unemployment benefits or medical bills. Additionally, you can provide signed statements from social workers, police officers, and school faculty that confirm the special circumstance. These statements should also explain how this issue causes a need for additional assistance.
Step 4 – Write an Appeal Letter, If Needed
Most schools require an appeal letter that details reasons for needing more aid. These statements should address the special circumstance that impacts your finances with exact information, such as specific dates and salary differences. Other institutions may not require letters, but applicants may still need to submit appeal forms and verification documents. Those considering appeals should consult their financial aid departments for guidance on school policies.
Step 5 – Submit Your Appeal
You can submit your appeal information electronically, send appeals by mail, or deliver them in-person. Each school may prefer a different method, so applicants should ask financial aid departments for guidance. Applicants may call, email, or visit the financial aid office after submitting appeals to see if the department requires additional documentation. The time needed to process and review appeals may vary among schools, but in general, candidates can expect a decision in less than one month
Tips for how to win a financial aid appeal
- Contact your college financial aid office and/or the college financial aid administrator for guidance
- Make a note of the names of those you speak to
- Treat each contact professionally
- In all interactions be direct and be specific
- Become familiar with the policies and procedures to apply and appeal for financial aid
- Have your information and documentation ready
- When writing use a professional format
- Proofread all written correspondence
- Be conscious of deadlines
What Happens if Your Appeal is Approved?
If your financial aid appeal is approved, it will be implemented by making a change in the data fields on the FAFSA. For example, if a parent has lost their job, the college financial aid administrator will change the income and income tax figures on the FAFSA.
This will generate a new Expected Family Contribution (EFC) using the FAFSA’s standard financial aid formula. The EFC will yield a new figure for Demonstrated Financial Need, based on the difference between the cost of attendance and the new EFC. This, in turn, will yield a new financial aid package.
What to do if your financial aid appeal is denied?
We are sorry to hear that. Please note that there is no appeal beyond the college financial aid administrator. Neither the college’s president nor the U.S. Department of Education can override the financial aid administrator’s decision. Financial aid departments may reject appeals. To prepare for this possibility, candidates should explore other options to pay for their education. Tending to this task while waiting on an appeal decision can save time. For instance, students can research private loans, and then submit applications upon hearing a negative verdict.
Other sources of funds could include:
- Private Loans
- Employer Tuition Reimbursement Plans
- Part-Time Jobs
- Summer Jobs
- Paid Internships
Read more about financial aid on the best financial aid guide.