Financial Aid Appeals

Our financial aid programs are thoughtfully designed to ensure every admitted student can access a Cornell education, at an affordable cost. We also understand that financial aid applications may not always capture important information that impacts the amount or type of aid you are eligible for.

Understanding the Financial Aid Appeal Process

A financial aid appeal, also known as a special circumstances appeal, is a request to reconsider the specific information you provided on your financial aid application(s) which Cornell used to determine your expected family contribution (EFC).

If approved, a financial aid appeal results in a reduction to your expected family contribution (EFC) and, a corresponding increase to your grant, endowed scholarship, or other need-based aid (when eligible).

What circumstances have already been considered?

Cornell automatically considers many common situations when determining your expected family contribution and calculating your demonstrated need. Unless related to a special or unusual circumstance, the following generally will not be considered in a financial aid appeal:

  • Geographic variations in cost of living.
  • Federal, state, and other taxes.
  • Typical expenses for maintaining a home, vehicle, and transportation.
  • Home equity, when applicable.
  • Medical, dental, and vision expenses, including copays and insurance premiums.
  • Private K-12 education expenses for younger siblings.
  • College education expenses for older siblings enrolled as undergraduates.
  • Annual inflation.

What special or unusual circumstances may be considered?

In certain circumstances, Cornell aid professionals are permitted to use professional judgement to consider information that may not have been reflected in your aid application(s), including special or unusual circumstances.

Cornell does not offer merit aid or negotiate financial and offers - financial aid appeals must include documentation detailing each change or challenge that has occurred since you initially applied or was not captured by your financial aid application(s).

  • An error was made on your CSS Profile or FAFSA form.
    • Misreported income or assets.
    • Misreported family size.
  • significant change to your family situation.
    • Parental abandonment or estrangement.
    • Death or incarceration of a parent.
    • Victims of human trafficking.
    • Legally granted refugee or asylee status.
  • A substantial financial challenge due to circumstances beyond your family’s control.
    • Involuntary job loss leading to significant reduction of total family income.
    • Excessive, unreimbursed medical expenses.
    • One time income or expenses, if related to an emergency or special/unusual circumstance.
    • Unreimbursed expenses related to a natural disaster.

  • Your student and/or parent contributions are already $0 (Cornell cannot reduce your EFC further).
  • Circumstances already considered (Cornell considers many common situations automatically).
  • Requests for merit-based aid (Cornell does not offer merit-based aid).
  • Requests to match merit-based aid from another school (Cornell does not offer merit-based aid).
  • Negotiating for more or better aid (Cornell does not negotiate, we offer need-based aid only).
  • Disputing Cornell’s method for determining aid eligibility (Cornell values fairness and consistency).
  • Inability or refusing to pay the expected family contribution (Cornell offers payment plans and loan options).
  • Inability or refusing to borrow (Cornell offers abundant work-study opportunities).

  • Nominal decreases in income or assets that typically fluctuate (such as small business, farm, or investment income).
  • Parents recently divorced or separated (both parents’ income is considered, regardless of marital status).
  • Voluntary job loss or reduction of total family income (only involuntary reductions in income are considered).
  • Anticipated or very recent job loss (financial impact is typically recognized in the following academic year).
  • One-time income (financial impact typically returns to normal the following academic year).
  • Consumer debt (such as credit cards, auto loans, personal loans, or lines of credit).
  • Tax or other civil liabilities (unless compelled to a special/unusual circumstance).
  • Discretionary spending (unless compelled by a special/unusual circumstance).
  • Discretionary reallocation of assets (unless compelled by a special/unusual circumstance).
  • Student self-sufficiency (unless related to a special/unusual circumstance).
  • Parent(s) who do not claim a student as a dependent for income tax purposes (unless related to a special/unusual circumstance).
  • Parent(s) who choose not to contribute financially (unless related to a special/unusual circumstance).
  • Parent(s) who choose not to provide information on the CSS Profile, FAFSA, or other required documentation (unless related to a special/unusual circumstance).

When and How to File a Financial Aid Appeal

When submitting a financial aid appeal, please use the appropriate form listed below. Tips for success:

  1. If you’ve made an error on your aid application(s), correct your CSS Profile or FAFSA via the appropriate application portal and notify the Cornell Financial Aid Office by email ( In many circumstances a correction to your aid application (s) can be considered without an appeal.
  2. If your aid application(s) are correct and you have a special or unusual circumstance, please submit all requested documents first and submit a financial aid appeal only after receiving a preliminary aid estimate or official aid offer.
  3. When submitting your appeal, please provide a clear and concise summary of your special or unusual circumstance. Whever possible, include relevant details, dates, and references to your supporting documentation.
  4. Documentation (as opposed to persuasion) is key. Submit clear supporting documentation for each circumstance you wish to be reconsidered. Ensure your summary references your supporting documentation.

Appeals submitted with incomplete or insufficient documentation cannot be considered and may be denied.

Appeals are reviewed in the order they are received. Typical response time is 10 to 15 business days. Appeals may be approved or denied. Approved appeals may not result in additional grant or scholarship aid. Appeals submitted after receiving a preliminary aid estimate, but before receiving an official aid offer will result in a revised aid estimate, if successful.

First-Year and Transfer Students

If your enrollment deposit decision depends on the outcome of a financial aid appeal, you must request an enrollment deposit extension via your Admission Portal.

Financial Aid Appeal, 2024-25 Academic Year

Continuing Students

Financial Aid Appeal, 2024-25 Academic Year

Financial Aid Appeal, 2023-24 Academic Year