This page contains detailed information for undergraduate students regarding the process for appealing financial aid eligibility due to a change in family circumstances. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances resulting from the ongoing pandemic.
There are at least two types of appeal processes: a formal appeal, and an intent to appeal. Unless otherwise specified, the information on this page relates to formal appeals. The intent-to-appeal process is available only to newly admitted students who have not yet made an enrollment decision and is described in the section below, labeled "Appeals for 2021-2022." If your aid offer feels unmanageable, we strongly urge that before submitting any appeal forms you read all of the information provided below, as much of it is intended to:
- assist families in submitting appeals that are successful, and
- point out additional resources that might be helpful, even if an appeal may not be warranted.
We realize these are trying times for many families, and we wish you all the best in managing the challenges you're facing and want to do what we can to be of assistance.
It's important to recognize that even if there has been a significant change in a family’s circumstances, not all changes will result in additional need-based aid on appeal. Below are some fairly common examples of appeals that, while perfectly valid and understandable, do not necessarily result in additional aid. Any tax years noted in these examples relate to the 2021-2022 aid year.
- A family may anticipate a decrease in income for 2021 – perhaps due to a job loss or business challenges. However, if their income increased between 2019 and 2020, and perhaps again at the start of 2021, sometimes estimated 2021 income (which could potentially include severance and/or unemployment benefits as well) will not actually be less than the 2019 income on which the original award is based. In that case, while the family has certainly experienced a recent reduction in income, no additional eligibility would exist, if we were to use (greater) 2020 or 2021 income as the basis of an award; and we are not able to consider estimated 2022 income until academic year 2022-2023.
- A family may have a significant decrease in income (which can often be addressed in an appeal). However, they may also have significant assets (which traditionally cannot be adjusted on appeal). In such cases, even if we take into account the loss of income, an appeal may not result in increased aid eligibility if the calculated contribution from assets alone covers all, or a significant portion of, the student’s cost of attendance.
- A family that’s already living paycheck to paycheck may experience a further loss of income; and their assets may be modest enough that there is no expected contribution at all from their savings. However, based on the original application we may have offered enough aid that the full cost of attendance is already covered in one way or another. As we are not able to offer need-based aid beyond the cost of attendance, there would be no additional eligibility for aid, even though the family’s circumstances have clearly become more challenging.
- A family member may experience a difficult medical situation and may encounter significant healthcare expenses as a result. However, depending on the year of the expense, the strength of the income in that year, and the extent to which insurance may cover some portion of the costs, it sometimes occurs that the percentage of income spent on unreimbursed out-of-pocket medical expenses does not exceed the allowance already provided within our need-analysis formula, in which case eligibility for aid may not increase upon appeal.
If your situation does not fall into one of the categories above, please continue reading for more information about the formal-appeal and intent-to-appeal processes.
If you are unsure whether or not your situation may fall into one of the categories above, please feel free to contact [email protected] for guidance. We can help you determine whether or not it may make sense to submit an appeal.
Please note that ALL of the following conditions must be met for a formal appeal to be processed:
- The student is, or has recently been admitted as, an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. (Graduate students are eligible only for federal aid and any merit-based offers for which they may be selected by entities other than Student Financial Services, which offers no merit aid at all.)
- The student has already submitted a FAFSA and CSS Profile and received an official financial aid offer for the relevant academic year. If you have questions about the steps involved in an initial application for aid, please see this web page: https://sfs.virginia.edu/financial-aid-new-applicants/how-apply-financial-aid-undergraduate-applicants. (The information on that page is generally applicable to both entering and returning students. You may use the drop-down menus at the top of the page to navigate elsewhere on our site, if needed.)
- The student’s family submits a complete appeal, including all required documentation as well as one or more of our appeal-related forms, links for which are available below, based on the academic year for which you are seeking aid. Incomplete appeals are unlikely to receive a positive response.
- If a student or family is appealing in whole or in part based on loss of current-year income, they will need to submit – in addition to the appeal documents – their completed personal tax return(s) for the prior year.
- If appealing in whole or in part based on loss of current-year business income, the student or family will need to submit - in addition to the above and to any forms noted on the student's SIS To Do List - their completed business tax return(s) for the prior year, showing all relevant business earnings for that tax year, as well as a DocuSign Profit and Loss Statement, for any business(es) owned.
This appeal process is initially available only to newly admitted students. Current or continuing students would wait to receive an official offer before submitting an appeal. Official offers for returning students will usually be issued beginning in June, after the admission cycle has closed for the year.
When completing certain of the appeal-related forms, the student/family may need to include the student’s UVA e-mail address. The e-mail address is an extension of the computing ID used by the student for the purposes of logging in to view his/her Student Information System (SIS) To Do List. Questions about the login credentials may be directed to our ITS Helpdesk.
Intent to Appeal Form – Appropriate only for admitted students who have not yet made an enrollment decision, and who have had a significant change in family circumstances since 2019. This form may not necessarily result in an immediate adjustment to the aid award, but it allows Student Financial Services to provide the family with guidance about whether or not an appeal is likely to be successful and, if successful, when the results of a formal appeal might be available. To get a sense of whether or not your situation may result in a successful appeal, please read the section above, labeled “Is My Appeal Likely to be Successful?”
Entering students who intend to appeal should contact [email protected] to request an Intent to Appeal Form. The Appeal for Reconsideration form for returning students will be available shortly.
By submitting an appeal, families affirm they understand the following:
- Submitting an appeal form does not guarantee a change in need-based grant aid, as not all appeals are successful, and not all successful appeals result in grant funding.
- The Appeal for Reconsideration process does not take into account changes in the value of regularly fluctuating assets such as stocks or mutual fund holdings. If a dip in asset values is the sole or primary reason for appeal, we suggest instead the financing options noted below, which can help with cash flow until asset values recover.
- In certain cases, we may not be able to provide a revised award, or even an assessment of the potential success of a formal appeal, based solely on materials submitted during summer or fall – some families’ financial circumstances are simply too complex to assess without information that would only be available at calendar year’s end. While an unlikely occurrence during the pandemic, if this should occur, we will work with you to determine the best approach until current-year tax information is available.
Formal appeals will be handled in the order in which they become complete. However, due to anticipated volume, as well as our commitment to issuing official awards to all on-time applicants before processing appeals, we anticipate that even appeals submitted in early July will not be reviewed until late summer or early fall. In the meantime, we can offer temporary financing options and other flexibilities; however, it is important to have some sort of plan in place for the coming term, especially understanding that not all appeals are successful.
Information about various financing options can be found in the section below, labeled "Additional Resources Beyond the Appeal Process."
For context regarding our office's processing of these appeals please reference the chart below:
Please note that the full appeal cycle can take quite a bit of time, especially given the volume of appeals we have received since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As soon as we possibly can we will communicate with everyone who submits an appeal, so long as the student remains enrolled.
The Bridge Scholarship Program, created in 2020, provides funding to help literally bridge the gap for students whose family financial situation has been significantly and enduringly affected by adverse circumstances, such as COVID-19. There is no separate application for this scholarship – all who appeal following the steps noted above will be considered. The Bridge Scholarship simply provides Student Financial Services with substantial new resources we may tap into in assisting the many families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As in any other year, though, it is the appeal itself, as well as the supporting documentation submitted, that will determine the amount of additional aid offered, if any. To be considered for Bridge funding, students must meet all of the following criteria:
- Complete a 2020-2021 FAFSA
- Complete a 2020-2021 CSS Profile (and a Non-Custodial Profile, if applicable)
- Receive their official financial aid offer
- Successfully appeal their official financial aid offer by following the instructions above
In those cases, a Bridge Scholarship would make up the difference between the student's previous demonstrated need and their newly derived demonstrated need. Scholarship amounts will vary by individual and are based on the new financial need.
Given that Student Financial Services offers only need-based financial aid, and recognizing some of the factors mentioned above that may cause an appeal request to be denied, we understand that there are still going to be situations where students and their families will be in need of additional sources of funding.
To that end, we can point toward:
- Various scholarship opportunities that may be helpful in moderating at least the self-help portion of any previous financial aid offer (that is, job and/or loans); or
- Various financing options that may assist with the family contribution itself, by spreading payments over a longer period of time. The Parent PLUS loan may be of particular interest in that regard, as deferment and forbearance are options during times or hardship; and the loan can be reduced later in the academic year if additional aid can be provided based on appeal. Be sure to work through Student Financial Services to arrange any loan reductions, though, to avoid paying unnecessary fees/interest.