SAP appeal: A step-by-step guide

Writing an exceptional aid appeal letter can make or break your application. Why would you need to file an aid appeal? If you’ve had trouble sticking to the guidelines of FAFSA®’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirement. Losing your financial aid could be the thing that makes or breaks your ability to finish your education.
Every college or university is required to have an SAP Policy that outlines satisfactory grades, probation, and appeals. The Higher Education Act requires each university to confirm that every student receiving financial aid has maintained Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in order to retain eligibility for Title IV financial aid funds. Satisfactory Academic Progress is different at every college, but it includes a satisfactory GPA, a specific number of credits, and progress towards your degree.

How do I know if I did not make SAP?

Colleges and universities send out warnings to students. Check out your college’s financial aid SAP policy so you’re aware of the academic progress you’re expected to maintain each semester.

Why would I qualify to appeal SAP?

Students should file an aid appeal if they experienced a hardship, death in the family, illness, injury, mental illness, or a special circumstance that impacted their academic standing. You can learn about the general SAP aid appeal process here and here

How do I write an SAP appeal? 

  • Check your college’s website for directions. 
  • Follow the outline below.
  • Submit the appeal to the office specified by your college.
  • Follow up with the office weekly.
  • Prepare a financial backup plan just in case your appeal is not approved.

SAP Appeal Template Outline

If you’re a student looking to file your financial aid appeal letter, we’ve made it easy. Check out our simple SAP appeal template designed to get you your financial aid back. Follow the structure of the appeal template, being sure to include your persona situation and intentions to get your academic progress back on track.
School Name
Full Name
Student ID: 
To Whom It May Concern, 

1st Paragraph – What happened? 

Example: My mother fell ill with stage 3 breast cancer in January of 2018. My mother needed assistance getting to and from doctor appointments, receiving chemotherapy, and general day-to-day needs. While I was able to maintain my attendance in each class, I was unable to successfully complete my homework and set aside adequate time to study. 

2nd Paragraph – How will this change?

Example: Fortunately, I have a great academic advisor, Dr. Cook, who has helped me create an execution plan for the upcoming semester. We scheduled classes for Monday-Thursday, so I can spend Friday-Sunday at home taking care of my mom. We also scheduled only afternoon classes on Monday, so I can spend a full three nights at home. We will splurge to have a nurse take care of my mom during the week, which will allow me to destress, and have time for homework and studying. I will be spending Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the student center, and Mondays in the library with a new study group I just joined. I also cleared out the basement in my house to create a quiet study space at home as well.

3rd Paragraph – Documentation

Example: Please find attached the following documents:
  • Doctor’s note confirming my mother’s illness 
  • Copy of the execution plan I created with my advisor, Dr. Cook
  • Statement from the Student Center 
Please let me know if I need to provide other documents or information.
I appreciate the consideration. 
Student Name
If you’d like to download the aid appeal letter to make it easier for you to complete your own letter, you can find a template here.

Final Notes

We know that every student comes up against obstacles that can make it hard to stay on track and keep their financial aid. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, don’t give up until you’ve filed your aid appeal to try and keep your financial support.
Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeals don’t have to be too stressful, as long as you follow the directions outlined above. Good luck!