How to Appeal for More Financial Aid

on February 24, 2017

Families can appeal for more financial aid if they are affected by special circumstances. Some colleges call it a special circumstances review, financial aid appeal or professional judgment review.


Special circumstances include anything that’s changed from the base year to the academic year, anything that distinguishes the family from the typical family and anything that affects the family’s ability to pay for college.


Examples of special circumstances include:

  • Change in student or parent income due to job loss, salary reduction or death/disability
  • Number of parents genuinely enrolled in college at least half-time
  • Private K-12 tuition
  • Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses
  • High dependent care costs for a special needs child or elderly parent
  • Homelessness
  • Income from an involuntary foreclosure or bankruptcy liquidation
  • Disability-related expenses
  • End of child support or Social Security benefits
  • Income from a Roth IRA conversion
  • Hardship distributions from retirement plans
  • Natural disasters (wildfires, wind storms, floods, mudslides, tornados and hurricanes)
  • Volatiles income that varies from one year to the next, especially if self-employed
  • One-time events that are not reflective of ability to pay during the academic year

Ask the college about its process for handling financial aid appeals. Some colleges have a form they want the family to fill out, while others ask the family to write a brief letter summarizing the special circumstances and the financial impact of the special circumstances on the family.


It is important to provide independent, third-party documentation of the special circumstances and their financial impact.


The college financial aid administrator is more likely to make an adjustment when the special circumstances were beyond the family’s control.


Families can appeal for more financial aid at any time, even in the middle of the academic year.

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