Having financial emergencies come up after you’ve submitted your financial aid application can be stressful.
While this can be an overwhelming situation, you might have the opportunity to get an adjustment to your financial aid package.
The financial aid process uses standardized applications and formulas to determine your eligibility for funding.
If you or your family has experienced special or unusual circumstances, you may be able to submit an appeal which allows the financial aid office to consider additional information in its determination of your eligibility.
The financial aid appeal process isn’t simple, so make sure you have a valid reason for requesting an adjustment.
What is the Financial Aid Appeal Process?
There is a chance that the information you provided in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) doesn’t adequately illustrate your financial situation. Or, perhaps, your financial situation changed after you submitted your FAFSA.
If that’s the case, your financial aid offer might not cover all of your needs.
The financial aid adjustment process exists so students can document their special or unusual circumstances for consideration by the financial aid office.
What Special and Unusual Circumstances Will the Financial Aid Office Consider?
The financial aid office will consider very specific reasons for a financial aid appeal.
Special circumstances refer to situations such as loss of income or extra education related expenses.
Unusual circumstances refer to conditions that justify making a dependent student independent based on a unique situation, which is commonly referred to as a dependency override.
Examples of special circumstances include:
- Changes in family income.
- Recent unemployment.
- Significant unreimbursed medical/dental expenses.
- Separation, divorce, or death of a parent or spouse after the FAFSA was filed.
- One-time financial gains.
- End of child support or alimony payments.
- Dependent care expenses related to your education.
- Transportation costs in excess of what’s already included in the estimated cost of attendance.
Examples of unusual circumstances include:
- Parental abuse or abandonment.
- Human trafficking.
- Refugee or asylee status.
Steps to Successfully Navigate the Financial Aid Adjustment Process
Getting through the financial aid appeal steps could take a week or more. So if you know you want to request an adjustment, start the process as soon as you can. Starting early will help you avoid a missed tuition payment.
Evaluate Your Eligibility
Before submitting a financial aid appeal, reach out to a financial aid advisor at your college. They can help you determine whether you are eligible for a financial aid adjustment and if it’s worth your time to complete the process.
When you talk to your financial aid advisor, be specific about how and when your financial situation changed.
Gather Necessary Documentation
The documents needed will depend on your situation. You might need:
- Medical bills.
- Insurance claims.
- Government documentation.
- Tax returns, W-2 forms or pay stubs.
- Job termination notices.
- Bank statements.
- Letters from third parties (teachers, counselors, social workers, etc.)
To speed up the process, make sure you have the documents you need before submitting your appeal and submit all documentation together.
Drafting a Compelling Appeal Letter
You’ll most likely have to write a letter or statement that explains your circumstances.
Depending on the type of adjustment you are requesting, your letter should detail how your financial situation has changed, or why you should be considered independent. Provide specific examples of how your circumstances have affected your finances and how that will impact your ability to pay for college.
Keep your letter:
Be sure to proofread your letter before submitting the appeal to make sure you have provided all of the required information.
Submit Your Appeal and Documentation
Your college will require you to fill out forms, which will be submitted with your appeal letter and supporting documentation. Once you have gathered all of your documentation, submit it as instructed by the financial aid office.
Await Response and Next Steps
Follow up with the financial aid office at least a week after you submit your appeal to make sure it’s been received and to make sure they have the necessary documentation.
Your appeal will be denied or approved. If the appeal is denied, you can work with your financial aid advisor to come up with other options for financial aid. Those might include scholarships, private student loans, employer tuition assistance, a part-time job or grants.
If your appeal is approved, the financial aid advisor will update your FAFSA and notify you of the results. Having an appeal approved doesn’t always result in an increase to your financial aid offer.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Financial Aid Appeal Process
The financial aid adjustment appeal process can feel overwhelming and stressful, but it’s important to stay organized and follow the steps carefully.
When submitting your appeal, avoid:
- Overlooking deadlines.
- Not providing adequate documentation.
- Writing a vague or non-specific appeal letter.
- Not communicating with your financial aid advisor.
Getting the Financial Resources You Need For College
Attending college is an important step in your journey to your dream career. Not having the financial means doesn’t have to hold you back from achieving your goals.
You and your family can advocate for your needs while following the guidelines of your college.
Contact a financial aid advisor to better understand the financial aid options available to you, get assistance navigating the financial aid process or to determine if you have eligibility for a financial aid appeal.