Financial Aid

Questions and Answers about Financial Aid Appeals

We answer common questions about appealing, including if you need a specific reason to appeal, how the process works, if it ever hurts to appeal, if you can submit multiple appeals, and more.
Father and son appealing financial aid offer

If you're a family with a high school senior in the thick of reviewing college admissions decisions and financial aid offers, you may have heard whispers of something called "appealing." The process allows you to ask a financial aid office for additional funds, thereby making a school on your list a bit more affordable. We invite you to watch our What to Know about Financial Aid Appeals webinar to get the full details on the process, but we've answered some questions below to help you understand the basics.

Q: Do you need a specific reason to appeal for additional financial aid?

A: A lot of schools do require some type of change in circumstance in order to grant you additional funds. That could mean you forgot to include something on your financial aid applications that would increase your eligibility for aid, or a parent suddenly lost a job, or your family incurred a recent significant expense, such as a medical procedure or home repair emergency. Occasionally, schools will grant appeal funding to students who simply ask for additional aid, but that's less common.

Q: What's the process for appealing? 

A: It differs from school to school. Some colleges have a form you need to complete. Others simply ask you to write an email with as much detail as possible, and to attach any relevant documentation. Check with each school to find out their process.

Q: Does it ever hurt to appeal? I don't want to come across as asking for a handout.

A: It does not hurt to appeal. Financial aid offices know that college is expensive, and families are trying to do the best they can to afford the upcoming costs. Just be sure to be respectful in your request.

Q: I found a mistake on my FAFSA that might increase my eligibility for financial aid. Do I revise my FAFSA or just let the schools know of the difference?

A: Go ahead and correct your FAFSA. The schools you have listed on the FAFSA will receive that correction, but at this time of year it's best to also let the schools know that a revision is coming. They may be able to provide some additional aid as a result.

Q: We submitted a financial aid appeal and it was denied. Can we submit another appeal?

A: You certainly can submit another request. However, at most institutions, a subsequent appeal that's based on the same or similar information is likely to be answered the same way.

Q: If there is a significant gap between the aid offered and the EFC, is this a condition for appeal?

A: You certainly can mention that gap when communicating with the school, but since they have already reviewed your financial aid applications, they know of that difference and may not be able to offer any additional funds.

Q: We took money out of our 401K, which affected our amount of income on the FAFSA. Is this a reason to appeal?

A: Yes, a one-time inflation of your income, which a 401K withdrawal will cause, is definitely a reason to appeal. Colleges want to base your financial aid on your typical annual income, so they can remove this one-time increase from your income total, and potentially offer you additional aid based on your standard yearly income.

Q: My parents are not willing to pay anything toward my college costs. Is this a reason to appeal?

A: Unfortunately, even if your parents do not want to contribute toward your college costs, their financial information will be included when a financial aid office is calculating your eligibility for financial aid, with the assumption that they will help to pay for your expenses. However, you can still submit an appeal detailing your family situation.

Q: If I received a merit scholarship at one school, can I appeal to receive one from another?

A: Merit funding and awarding policies vary from school to school. As well, the applicant pool differs from school to school, so a student who may be a strong applicant and merit scholarship recipient at one school may not be as strong a candidate at another. However, it never hurts to mention another school's merit scholarship in an appeal letter.

If you have additional questions about appealing a financial aid offer, we welcome you to reach out to us. You can contact us via phone at (800) 449-MEFA (63332) or via email at collegeplanning@mefa.org.

Watch our video on appealing financial aid offers