Receiving financial aid is truly a great thing, but sometimes, it may not be enough to cover your costs. If you have received your financial aid package and have determined that it won’t be enough, there is a process in place that will allow you to submit an appeal. This is called a Professional Judgement Review, also called a Special Circumstance Review by some schools. Here is how the process works.

Determining If It’s Needs-Based or Merit-Based 

According to “How to Negotiate a Better Financial Aid Package,” there are basically two categories that an appeal may fall into. If it is needs-based, this means that the offer is not enough to cover your education expenses. Merit-based means that you received a better package from another school that is a competitor. Once you determine your situation, you can then begin the real work.

Writing A Detailed Appeal Letter

Your next step is to write a letter that is data or fact driven. Emotional appeals are not going to get you anywhere. If you are in need of more money to cover your costs, state your reasons why and outline how you cannot afford college in your current situation. Common instances that may warrant such an appeal include: “parent losing a job or reduction of income, unexpected medical expenses, death of a parent, one-time increase in family’s income reflected in the based FASFA year, support of an elderly parent, damage due to natural disaster, divorce or separation,” according to the article “7 Ways to net More Financial Aid.”

If you are filing an appeal because you were offered a larger financial aid package from the school’s competitor, then you should state that you are interested in attending if they can match the offer. The difference that is being offered is important data to include, as well as any changes in grades or recent academic awards that you may have received. Furthermore, if you can include additional letters of recommendation, that will only help your case. Note that you have a better chance of getting more money if it is a direct competitor to the school.

Providing the Proof

The school needs ample evidence that they can show to the U.S. Department of Education if they get audited. This is why you need to provide any documentation that you are in possession of that can act as evidence in favor of your appeal. The school needs this third-party documentation to justify their adjustment. If there is not enough evidence to support this claim, then the school could end up being on the hook for the financial aid if they get audited.

Knowing Where to Send the Appeal

Before you send your appeal, you should make sure you have not only your letter and documentation in order but also where you need to mail it. You can call the school and tell them you want to submit an appeal for a Professional Judgement Review and determine where it should be sent to. If you are trying to get more money to cover your costs, you should contact the financial aid department; if you are seeking an improved offer based off of your merits, then you should call the enrollment or administration office.

Alternative Options

If you are unable to receive more money, then you should consider scholarships. This is really one of the best ways to pay for college because you do not have to pay any money back. The last resort should be loans, and if you are considering this option, make sure that it makes sense in regards to the income you can potentially earn with your degree. To learn more about what you should consider before taking out a loan, read our article here.