Financial aid isn’t guaranteed to every college student who fills out a FAFSA or applies to a school. In fact, you may be denied financial aid, or offered far less than you think you need.

You may be denied financial aid for a number of reasons. Your parents may earn too much money for you to qualify, or you may have gotten in trouble with the law, or you may have received bad grades in the previous academic year. Whatever the reason, receiving a denial can seem like a crushing blow. It’s not final, however. You still have one option left after first being denied financial aid — the appeal letter.

A financial aid appeal letter is just what it sounds like. It’s a formal communication asking the school to reconsider its decision to limit or deny your financial aid including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. Writing an appeal letter certainly doesn’t guarantee that the school’s financial aid office will reverse its decision, but it may help your situation.

How To Write A Financial Aid Appeal Letter

When writing your financial aid appeal letter, be professional. You want the school to reverse their decision, so you don’t want to be demanding. You’ll also want to get to the point quickly. Understand that the financial office deals with thousands of students each year. Make sure that you lay out the situation clearly and up front.

If you’re appealing for a simple reason. Maybe you or your parent has lost a job and your household income has dropped significantly, making the family contribution no longer feasible. Then state that clearly and immediately.

If your situation is something more complicated, you’ll want to explain it as clearly as possible. Maybe you got bad grades and flunked out of your last semester, but it was due to a hospitalization that caused you to miss coursework. Whatever the mitigating situation, outline it simply without being emotional.

Finally, if the situation that caused the school to limit you financial aid was your fault, then take responsibility for it. If the reason you failed out was because you were partying too much or simply not paying attention in class or studying hard enough, admit it. Express your remorse, and outline how you plan to correct the mistake.

Regardless of what you need to write, be clear, concise, and professional. Research exactly who will be reading your appeal letter, and address it to them. Proofread for both content and proper English, and send it promptly.

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It also helps to look for specific samples and examples that can give you an idea of what has worked for other students in your similar situations. Be sure, of course, not to copy these sample appeal letters exactly.

Should You Hire a Consultant to Help You Appeal Your Denial?

A financial aid consultant can help you and your family navigate the appeal letter process, but do you need one?

If you’ve been denied, you can submit an appeal letter without a consultant. In fact, that consultant will cost money. If you’re trying to appeal denied financial aid, you may not want to spend that money on a consultant.

In addition, some consultants get your applications and appeals more closely scrutinized, which may not be a good thing. If the school sees you can afford a financial aid consultant, it could deny your appeal.

What Should You Do if Your Financial Aid Appeal is Denied?

It’s possible that your financial aid appeal will also get denied. If so, you still have options to pay for your education, but it will require more research and effort.

Scholarships and private grants are options to consider even while first applying for financial aid. Once you’ve appealed and been denied, you should certainly consider these options as a way to fill the gap in your financial aid. All individual scholarships and grants have their own criteria, deadline, and process, so you’ll need to do research. Follow through with the ones you qualify for.

If you’re unable to secure a scholarship or other "free" money, private student loans may also be an option. With these, you’ll likely need a cosigner with good credit, or you need to have excellent credit and a history of stable income yourself if you don't have a cosigner. Private student loans are based upon creditworthiness, and even if you have good credit, having a cosigner can help you get the best interest rate possible, which will save you money in the long run.

Bottom Line on Financial Aid Appeal Letters

Just because you get denied financial aid your dreams of a college education are still attainable. If you’re willing to put the effort in, you can often successfully appeal your denial – or find other ways to fund your schooling. Look for examples of successful appeal letters, write down what you want to say, then edit, edit, and edit some more!