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Last updated September 12, 2023

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How to Appeal Financial Aid

Key Takeaway

You can appeal your financial aid award if it doesn't meet your needs or differs from your NPC estimate. Reach out to the financial aid office or your assigned admissions officer directly to understand the appeal process and discuss the possibilities.

Did you know that financial aid awards can be negotiable?

Yep—I said negotiable!

While it’s not always possible, it never hurts to ask. Especially if you have a competing offer from a similar institution, you can always contact your admissions officer or the financial aid office to see if there’s anything they can do for you.

In this post, I’ll teach you what financial aid appeals are and how you can pursue one yourself.

Let’s get started.

Can You Appeal Financial Aid?

Let me reiterate, because this fact often surprises students and parents: yes, you absolutely can appeal your financial aid award.

Financial aid appeals are really common, even if you haven’t heard of anyone else submitting an appeal before.

So why are financial aid appeals a thing?

At the end of the day, admissions offices want to enroll students. If a couple thousand dollars extra would help you choose one college over another, then admissions officers or financial aid counselors at that college may be incentivized to help you out a little.

That’s why your award letter isn’t the end-all-be-all in your financial aid package. If the aid you’ve been awarded doesn’t fill the gap between the Cost of Attendance and your Expected Family Contribution, then you have a legitimate reason to appeal your aid award.

It’s probably unlikely that you’ll get more than a few thousand dollars as part of an appeal, so you shouldn’t expect a college to fork over an extra $30k. Still, every dollar you don’t have to take out in loans helps.

Submitting an appeal doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get extra money, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Here’s how to do one.

How to Appeal Your Financial Aid Award

Remember: prior to applying to each college, you should have used the NPC—the Net Price Calculator. This tool allows families to input their financial data and receive an estimate of the net cost of attending that particular college. (If you didn’t use the NPC initially, you can still input your information now to see what it says.)

Once you’re admitted to the school, you should get a breakdown of your financial aid award. You’ll need to comb through it, understand all the terms, and calculate your net cost.

You can directly appeal your award by contacting the financial aid office or your assigned admissions officer.

The policy on financial aid appeals can vary greatly from one institution to another, so you’ll need to work closely with the university representative to make sure you follow the right process.

Some schools stick to a strict formula with minimal flexibility. For instance, a school that meets full demonstrated need without loans will award each student the scholarship dollars based on their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) in the same exact manner. In that case, the room for more money is extremely limited.

Other institutions may be more flexible. They might be willing to adjust your award to match another school’s award if your net price at the other institution is more competitive. Or, they could offer you a small, unallocated scholarship to help fill the gap.

If you find yourself just a tad short of affording your top-choice college, you should absolutely reach out to their financial aid office. You might be able to work out a deal with them and adjust your award to make attending their institution feasible. If a college has admitted you, they want to enroll you—especially if it’s a college or university that is trying to maintain or grow enrollment numbers.

As you go into your appeal, be sure to have all relevant documents on hand. These include your financial aid award letters, your family’s most recent tax returns, and any documents showing your family's unusual expenses. And if you have better aid offers from other colleges, those could be useful as well.

Of course, appealing your financial aid is not a guarantee of additional funding. But it can be a worthwhile step if you're really excited about a school but can’t quite afford it. Not all schools have the resources to increase your financial aid package, but you never know if you don’t ask.


You certainly can appeal your financial aid award if it doesn't meet your needs or differs from your NPC estimate. Reach out to the financial aid office or your assigned admissions officer directly to understand the appeal process and discuss the possibilities. Some schools may be able to adjust your award or provide additional scholarships, but the process and outcomes can vary. Always approach with courtesy, clarity, and honesty, and have all relevant documents on hand.

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