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Articles / Applying to College / Appealing an Aid Grant Based on New Class Rank

Appealing an Aid Grant Based on New Class Rank

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 12, 2003

Question: Earlier this fall I was admitted to my first-choice college. I was given a nice scholarship of $6,000, but I did not get the largest scholarship of $8,500. According to the criteria put forth by this school, I meet all of the requirements except for my class rank. However, after the fall semester, I believe my rank will go up at least one spot, putting me in the top 10%. I will also have completed 9 hours (plus 9 from last year) of college credit this fall, while keeping a 4.0 grade average. I know it is possible for one to appeal a financial aid award, but is it possible for me to go to my university and ask them to reconsider the scholarship given my mid-year grades, without me seeming like I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth? And is it done?

Congratulations on being admitted to your first-choice college and for being awarded a scholarship as well. You can certainly appeal that award, and you’re already getting off to the right start. Contact the financial aid office at your university (e-mail is fine) and tell them almost exactly what you’ve told usâ€"and in the same way. That is, explain that you are thankful for the money you’ve been given and that you don’t want to “look a gift horse in the mouth,” but do point out that your fall semester achievements may enable them to view you in a different light.


There is often flexibility in financial-aid budgets and policies, andâ€"not surprisinglyâ€"admission officials are more apt to favor students who appear appreciative rather than those who act entitled. Moreover, since you may be working with the same staff members for the next four years, it certainly would be wise for them to identify you in the former group, not the latter, from the get-go.

Make sure in your letter you clearly explain that you understand why you weren’t initially awarded the larger scholarship, but explain carefully, too, how your rank is improving. Offer thanks for the $6,000 you have been promised, but also offer all applicable reasons why an extra $2,500 would make a significant difference (“I am now working 15 hours/week, but would like to cut back during my first semester of college;” “My parents are shouldering unexpected medical expenses;” “My mother will be facing a job lay-off in the spring,” etc.).

Appeals like this are done all the time, and it sounds like you have solid grounds for yours. Don’t be shocked, however, if you don’t succeed. (For instance, there may be a rigid rule that requires aid decisions to be based on class rank at the time of application.) But do be persistent, and be sure to be grateful and polite.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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