The following is an updated version of the financial aid appeals newsletter that was sent to our clients in March 2023.


As you’re most likely already aware, 2024 has been a challenging year, both for college applicants and for financial aid offices across the country. Many universities have had to adjust their financial aid procedures in accordance with the FAFSA Simplification Act, resulting in delayed communications. By now, however, your student should have heard back from most if not all of the schools to which they applied. Now it’s time to go through the offers, compare opportunities, and make that final decision.

Consider all the offers your student has received and whittle the list down to their favorite schools, then determine if a financial aid appeal makes sense. Approach financial aid appeals with the mindset of “Am I being treated fairly?” If not, then consider pursuing an appeal.

Some other reasons to appeal might be that your family’s financial circumstances have changed significantly, or your student’s #2 college is offering more aid, prompting inquiry as to whether their #1 school can match the amount.

Remember to check each college’s deadline for confirming attendance. Many schools have moved the date back to May 15th this year, while some have moved it to June 1st; others are holding fast to May 1. The timeline to craft an appeal is short, so, again, we don’t recommend that everyone appeal their award just for the sake of getting more money.

If you feel that you have a case to appeal at your top choice after you have carefully read the entire financial aid offer, you can begin the appeal process. If you’re unsure as to how to proceed, meet with your SFC financial pillar advisor. Again, this is not standardized and each school has a different system for their appeals. In previous years, it was ideal to call the financial aid office or even pay them a visit in person, but you may have also sent them a detailed email outlining your situation and then followed up with a telephone call. This year, we recommend that you begin with a brief email.

Important things to remember:

  • Go into the conversation with a specific “ask”—i.e. a particular amount of money you need in addition to what they have already offered.
  • If you are appealing due to a significant change in your financial situation, be prepared to provide official documentation (i.e. hospital bills) to support your appeal.
  • This is not a negotiation where you have the opportunity to haggle back and forth. You are instead asking for the financial aid office to reconsider their offer.
  • Financial aid officers are compelled to use their professional judgment to determine the validity of the appeal.
  • Use a friendly, non-confrontational tone. Remember: financial aid office employees are people too! This has been a stressful year for people involved in admissions and financial aid so it’s important to present your case in a polite manner with the knowledge that their initial offer may be final. Keep your communications brief and professional.
  • Be prepared to make a deposit as soon as possible if your “ask” is met.

We recommend that the student manage this process as much as possible, rather than the parents. All this is really about is your student being able to craft a short, thoughtful case that points out a good reason for the institution to reconsider their offer.

Our goal at SFC is to help families develop realistic expectations right up front before the college list is even made, so that your student will eventually apply to schools where they’ll not only be accepted but also offered optimal financial aid packages.

Ultimately, you and your student should focus on which offers are best without any appeals. Remember that all of the schools on your student’s list would be a good fit for them (even though certain personal preferences may have shifted between now and when your student first submitted their applications). If one of the financial aid packages is less generous, it’s not a downgrade to attend another school that is already offering more financial aid.