Finessing Financial Aid: How To Use A Letter Explaining Extenuating Circumstances

The first 2 things high school teachers tell you about college is that professors don’t care if you choose not to show up to class (complete fabrication) and how much of a financial investment a college education is. While the first statement is debatable, the latter is undeniable. Regardless of the institution you choose to go to, the financial commitment can be a burden for you and your family. However, for most students heading off to start their higher education journey, their first stop is filling out the FAFSA or the Free Application For Federal Student Aid. The application determines financial aid eligibility for students and must be filled out each academic year. The FAFSA connects students to federally funded loans and grants to finance their college education. But, what happens when the financial aid awarded is not enough to even cover a full semester of school?

Why Is My Financial Aid Short?

There’s a wide array of reasons that your financial aid award may fall short when it comes to covering your school bills. The FAFSA asks over 100 questions to narrow down how much aid each student has access to. While the process is thorough, it doesn’t account for changes that may occur that can greatly impact your ability to cover the remainder of the amount you owe. From sudden unemployment to unexpected medical situations, there are various reasons that can affect your ability to cover your bill. It can be frustrating but running into roadblocks when it comes to financial aid is only a minor detour.

What To Do If Financial Aid Isn’t Enough?

Just like begging for extra credit to bump up your grade after spending the semester doing the bare minimum, there is a way to finesse financial aid to work for you and your situation. If your financial aid award is not enough to cover your tuition due to a situation that is out of your hands, then it’s time to break out your most useful finessing tool; a well written letter to explain your extenuating circumstances.

How To Write A Letter Explaining Extenuating Circumstances?

A letter explaining your extenuating circumstances is exactly what it sounds like. It is a letter written to the financial aid office explaining why your award is not enough despite the outcome of your FAFSA. It is your chance to simply ask for help. Before you break out your pen and paper, nail down what you are asking for and what the circumstances are that have changed causing you to be in the situation. Did you recently lose a major household income? Was there a death in the family? Are you dealing with health issues like hospitalization? Is your listed income not as black and white as it seems on your financial aid application? Whatever the situation, make sure that you are clear, concise, and accurate. Include any important documentation that will strengthen your case to prevent the time consuming back and forth that will be otherwise inevitable. Remember that you are asking for money from your school to cover your tuition not for the $20 you let your roommate borrow a month ago. Be kind, courteous, and avoid coming off as entitled even if you feel that you are. Outline your current financial aid award, how much you need, and make sure that you are as detailed as you can be. Your letter shouldn’t be the same length as your term paper so try to keep it to one page.

Paying for college is stressful for everyone and many students run into hurdles when their financial aid comes up short. There are always options and your first line of defense is crafting a clear, detailed, convincing letter explaining your situation.

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