How to Write a Financial Aid Letter for a Scholarship:
Financial aid letter: If you get a financial aid award that’s less than you hoped — or if your circumstances changed since you first applied— it’s not your last shot to get money for college. But no one is going to hand out more aid if you don’t ask for it.
Or, Let’s say you get accepted to college, but the financial aid package does not work for you and your family. Did you know that many colleges will allow you to submit a financial aid letter to be considered for more financial aid and scholarships?
FINANCIAL AID LETTER TIPS:
- Begin your financial aid letter with who you are and where you are from, how grateful you are to have been accepted and that you are excited about the school
- Be direct about what the letter is for (financial aid)
- Briefly talk about why the school is a great fit for you and why you need the money in an straightforward and respectful way.
- Provide concise details regarding your specific financial situation, even if you gave these details in your original application. Give them real numbers so that, when they do the math, they can see what you see: there just isn’t enough money.
- Include any details about yourself that show you are a hardworking student and have succeeded in the past in your financial aid letter.
- Keep your financial aid letter short and to the point. Once you are done, sign off respectfully.
When to write a financial aid letter?
Try to appeal your award as soon as possible before the school’s well of aid runs dry.
First, email or call the school’s financial aid office to learn more about its aid award appeals process. Ask whom you should get in touch with and any special requirements the school has.
Here are a few circumstances that warrant writing a financial aid letter:
- Your or your family’s finances have changed since you submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This might include events like the death of a caregiver, a medical emergency, job loss or homelessness.
- You made an error on the FAFSA you think may have affected your aid award.
- You got a better aid offer from another school and you’re asking the school to match.
The amount of aid you request depends on the gap you need to fill. If you only need a few thousand dollars more to pay for college, an appeal could be enough. If you have a larger gap — $10,000 or more — consider additional avenues, such as student loans.
If you need money more immediately due to a financial emergency, your school may have emergency grants available through its own fund or from the CARES Act.
How to write a need-based financial aid letter?
Need-based financial aid is a completely different type of financial aid than merit aid. Colleges award need-based scholarships according to a formula dictated by your family’s financial situation. This means that there is very little (if any) wiggle room for how colleges award need-based financial aid.
With this said, there are two ways that you may be able to receive a reevaluated need-based financial aid package:
- There was an error on your FAFSA or other financial aid form (like the CSS Profile)
- Your family’s financial aid situation has changed since you submitted your financial aid forms. Two of the most common reasons that this can happen include dramatically increased medical expenses or a parent loses their job. However, there may be other situations that could impact a family’s financial situation.
In these situations it is absolutely worth contacting the college’s financial aid office to ask if there is any possibility of an adjusted aid package. Generally, the office of financial aid will ask you for a letter explaining your change in circumstances, with context and possible documentation.
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What to include in your financial aid letter?
You can mail a letter, deliver in person or send an email, depending on the school’s process. SwiftStudent, a free tool developed by multiple colleges and educational advocacy organizations, has financial aid appeal letter templates available.
Your financial aid award appeal letter should include the following:
- An address to a specific person. Find a specific contact at the financial aid office to direct your letter to, rather than a generic “Dear Sir or Madam”
- A clear “ask” and a specific “why.” Ask the office to reconsider, then offer a clear-cut reason why you need more aid money.
- Details of any special circumstances. Explain your situation in an open and honest way. If there’s been a financial change since you submitted the FAFSA, ask the office to adjust your cost of attendance based on your new circumstances.
- Appropriate documentation. Include any relevant documents that support your explanation and refer to them in the letter. If the aid office requires specific forms, include those as well.
- An exact amount. Provide a real aid amount that would enable you to attend the school. If you need aid for specific things, like travel costs or supplies, be sure to name them.
- A competing offer, if you have one. If another school offered you more financial aid, include the offer and ask the school to match it.
- Next steps. Ask what the next stages are in the appeal process.
- More than one “thank you.” Open and close with gratitude. Thank the office for the financial aid you already got and for considering your appeal.
As you compose the letter, make sure to:
- Write it yourself. It may be tempting to have a parent appeal on your behalf, but that will come across. Your case will be stronger if you ask for more money for yourself, in your own words.
- Be careful of word choice and tone. The tone of the letter should toe the line between humble and assertive. Since you’re the one making a request, swap a term like “negotiate” for “reconsider.”
- Be clear and succinct. Write no more than one page.
- Pay attention to grammar. Have someone else you trust read your letter before sending, to check for any errors.
Is there any harm to write a financial aid letter?
When a need-based financial aid appeal is filed, the financial aid officers will examine the entire financial aid application again. In this second, careful review, it is possible that the financial aid officers might see something that could cause the award letter to change for the worse. While this is rare, it is important to know that financial aid appeals can impact your financial aid positively and negatively.
Can you ask for more money from private scholarships?
Private scholarships are almost always awarding a very fixed amount of money so it is unlikely that they are going to be considering appeals. This is unlikely to be a winning strategy for students. Of course, with billions of dollars in scholarship money available each year, nothing should stop you from finding and winning more scholarships!
7 steps to write your financial aid letter:
Step 1. Contact the school’s financial aid office to find out the appeals process.
Step 2. Find the best person to write the appeal letter to.
Step 3. Determine how much aid to ask for.
Step 4. Gather documents to support your request.
Step 5. Write a financial aid appeal letter that is no more than one page and includes details of why you need more money.
Step 6. Submit your letter, documentation and any forms the school requires.
Step 7. If you get a positive response, congratulations! If you still need additional aid or your request is denied, consider scholarships and loans. Alternatively, consider another school that has a lower price tag or offers more aid.
What to do if your financial aid letter is unsuccessful?
If your financial aid letter isn’t successful or still leaves you short of what you need, here are some other options:
Consider other financial sources. Look for scholarships that may still be available beyond the college. If you’re already taking out federal loans, consider private student loans to close the gap. Compare offers from multiple lenders before choosing a loan.
Rethink your college choice. If it’s unlikely you’ll get enough financial aid for every year of college, consider going to a less expensive school. Doing so could save you from a high debt burden you’ll be paying back for many years to come.
Note: Check your letter for misspellings and punctuation errors. Spell-check does not always find all of the spelling and grammatical errors.
Warning: Be truthful about your financial situation. Any misleading statements or false information can affect your ability to receive future financial assistance.
Financial Aid Letter Examples:
To the Financial Aid Office at UCLA:
My name is Sara Martinez and I am a 12th grader currently enrolled at Los Angeles Academy. First, I would like to say that I am much honored to have been admitted into this fine school, as University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is my number one choice.
There is a problem, however, and it is a financial one.
I’d love to attend UCLA—it’s near home, which would allow me to be closer to my family, and the Bio department is phenomenal. But, as a low-income Hispanic student, I simply don’t feel I can afford it. I’m writing to respectfully request an adjustment of my financial aid award.
Here are some more details of my financial situation. Currently, my father works as an assistant supervisor for American Apparel Co. and he is the only source of income for my family of five, while my mother is a housewife. The income my father receives weekly barely meets paying the bills.
My family’s overall income:
Father’s average weekly gross pay: $493.30
Father’s adjusted gross income: $27,022
Our household expenses:
Legal Services: $200
Car payment: $230.32
My parents cannot afford to have medical insurance, so they do not have a medical bill. My father’s average monthly income is an estimate of $1,973.20 (see attached pay stub). When household expenses such as rent, car payment, legal services, gas bill, and electricity bill are added together the cost is of $1,402.70. Other payments such as the phone bill, internet bill, and groceries also add to the list. But in order to make ends meet my father usually works overtime and tailors clothes for people in our neighborhood.
My family is on an extremely tight budget and unfortunately cannot afford to pay for my schooling. I have worked my way up and was recently awarded Valedictorian for the class of 2014. My goals and my aspiration of becoming a nutritionist have helped me push forward. I appreciate your time in reconsidering my financial aid award. I’m looking forward to becoming a Bruin.
Here’s another (much shorter) letter:
Dear Financial Aid Director
After submitting the FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year, I realized that you are using the same tax year (2015) that was used for my son’s freshman year. I am writing to you because my income for this year (2016) has declined and this fact will not be represented when you examine the FAFSA for 2017-2018 – let me explain why. I am a freelance graphic artist and only work when I receive a call for a project and am offered the job. In other words, I only receive a pay check when I work.
This could be for one day or several days, but I do not have steady or guaranteed income. In addition, it is not a job in the traditional sense, where I go to work at the same place every day, I may work for several different companies. I have been very fortunate in that I have been working my craft for a long time and get a fair number of calls but some years are better than others. Unfortunately, this year (2016) I am on track to make approximately $15,000 to $18,000 less that I did in the 2015 calendar year.
Thank you for your consideration,
Here’s one more financial aid request letter example:
Dear Financial Aid Office,
We appreciate you offering our son Paul a scholarship, but even with your help we can not afford the tuition. We have asked his grandparents and uncles to help, but they to unfortunately are not able to help pay the tuition. I would use our retirement money for him to attend your school, if we had any retirement fund. We honestly don’t know how to make this happen without your help. Next month I will be having a necessary hysterectomy and I will be out of commission for a couple of months and can not work. I am a first grade teacher at a small church school with a very small income and we can barely make ends meet.
I like to share with you a little bit about our son. I know you know how talented he is or he wouldn’t have gotten into your school. I know you only accept 22 % and he was one of the lucky few you let in. He has been working on his craft his whole life. He is one of the kindest and friendliest young men. He is genuine, not at all phony. He will walk down the halls of his school smile or say hi to anyone, teachers and students. He was voted Homecoming Court two years in a row.
Your school is the only school Paul wants to attend. He said to us he will not go to college if he can not go to The New School. None of the other schools offer what The New School can offer him. He has always wanted to be an actor, writer and director ever since he was five years old. Not only will Paul benefit from attending your school but you will also benefit. If you can offer us more financial help, Paul will be able to attend and graduate as one of your success stories.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to reconsider the amount you have offered Paul.
Gina and Tom Atamian.
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