College is an expensive endeavor, and the past few years have seen colleges increase tuition fees. As a result, millions of college students now find it necessary to write a statement of financial need. If you’re like many students, this simple document is one of the only ways to secure funding and increase tuition assistance, so it’s essential to get the wording and contents right.
A statement of financial need is a letter that explains your financial situation and tells admissions staff why you will benefit from monetary support. Many colleges and universities require you to submit a statement when you apply for scholarships.
Think of the statement like a cover letter — it adds a human element to your application and convinces reviewers to take a closer look. A job applicant has a lot riding on a cover letter, and the same is true for you. Your statement of financial need must be intelligent, concise, and compelling to help secure scholarships, grants, and other types of financial aid.
Make the Introduction Brief and Impactful
The most important part of your financial need letter is the introduction: the first sentence and the brief paragraph that follows. This paragraph should summarize your financial situation in a few sentences. The details about your financial situation will come later, but at the outset, it’s important to make sure you handle the introduction with care.
As you write the introduction, it’s helpful to list the factors that qualify you for financial aid. Everyone is different, so don’t worry about competing with other applications; focus on your situation. Some of the things to consider include family size, a single-income home, or your family’s financial standing.
“I am the oldest of five children. My dad died when I was 6; my mother has been supporting us on her own as a full-time nurse. I’ve been working weekends and summers since 9th grade to save for college.”
“I’m proud to be part of a hard-working, blue-collar family from Idaho. My parents came to the U.S. from Honduras before I was born, and my sister and I both work part-time to help with rent and other costs. I will be the first person in my family to attend college.”
“I am a single parent raising a five-year-old son. Since my high-school graduation, I have worked full-time as a house cleaner, saving every extra penny for college. Now that he is in kindergarten, I’m able to start taking classes with the goal of creating a better life for us both.”
In some cases, unexpected situations can affect your ability to pay for college. A parent might lose a job, for example, or your family might need to contend with medical bills. Include this information in the introduction, especially if it affects your immediate financial status.
“I grew up in a middle-class home in Cleveland. My father is the primary breadwinner, but he’s been unable to find work since he was laid off six months ago. I didn’t qualify for loans because of his prior income, and my family will no longer be able to contribute to my tuition and housing costs.”
“My parents and I have been putting money aside for college since I was a child. Two years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and the hospital bills have been overwhelming; we had to use my savings to avoid losing our home in the midst of chemotherapy treatments.”
Don’t worry if you don’t have a memorable story — many families make too much money to qualify for loans but not enough to help their children pay for tuition. The most important thing is to be honest about your family’s situation.
Information to Include in the Body of a Statement of Financial Need
After a strong introduction, the letter needs to include some simple facts about your education and how further financing will help you achieve your goals. You’ll want to focus on how lack of funding might make it impossible to complete your education or begin study. Cover these points in the body of your letter:
How You’re Paying for College
Offer details on how you’re paying for college right now. For example, you may want to highlight your job, and how you’re making ends meet by working and going to college at the same time. Include your efforts to get student loans and any other additional funding you’ve managed to acquire.
In this part of the statement of financial need, the goal is to show that you’ve made an effort to save money for college. This demonstrates to reviewers that you take education seriously, and that you understand its value. It also reassures them that you’re fiscally aware and able to manage scholarship money responsibly.
This section can take many different forms. If you’ll be starting as a first-year student, you might explain how you’ve been working in the summer to save for college. If you’re already in college, you can talk about your work-study job or weekend work. Don’t forget to mention your parents’ savings accounts or expected contributions, if available.
“My parents both work full-time, but they earn just enough to make ends meet for our family of five. In 9th grade, I realized that I’d be responsible for paying for college. Since then, I’ve worked part-time as a cashier at a local grocery store, picking up babysitting jobs whenever I can. Over four years, I’ve saved a little more than $5,000 for my education.”
“Together, my parents and I have saved $6,000 per year for my education. I’ve been approved for up to $7,000 in loans.”
“Currently, I’m a sophomore in the kinesiology department. I have a 10-hour work-study job, and I wait tables on the weekends.”
Difficulties You’ve Faced Finding Funding for College
For this part of the financial letter, list the reasons why you’re having trouble getting the necessary funds together. Perhaps your federally funded loans don’t cover full tuition, or you’ve had a change in family circumstances that led to your financial need.
As you write, it’s helpful to have your financial information nearby. That way, you can include specific details about how much assistance you need to cover the cost of attendance. There’s no need to be embarrassed about your situation; simply explain the challenges you’ve faced using a straightforward tone.
“In total, I have $4,000 in savings. My family is unable to contribute to my education, so even taking into consideration the $10,000 in federal grants and loans I’ve received, I need to come up with $3,000 to cover this year’s tuition and housing expenses.”
“My parents expected to contribute $5,000 per year toward my tuition. Since my father lost his job, they’ve been forced to reduce that amount to $1,000 per year.”
“Throughout college, I’ve been working 25 hours a week as a science program aide at a local elementary school. The program lost its funding recently, leaving me without a primary source of income.”
How You Benefit from Financial Aid
In three to five sentences, showcase why you’re deserving of the financial aid and how it will help you reach your educational goals. Include a sentence or two about your future after college and how you’ll benefit from being able to cover tuition with assistance.
This part of the statement of financial need is a great place to explain why you’re a great investment. It should convince the reviewer that you will put the money to good use, both during college and after. You might discuss your stellar academic record, for example, or talk about how your career goals will benefit a specific community.
“My family depends on my contributions, so I’ll be living at home while I attend college. This scholarship will enable me to cover tuition costs, so I can focus on my engineering courses during the week and use weekend income to help out with rent. With assistance, I’ll be able to maintain my strong academic track record and become a first-generation college graduate. After graduation, I intend to become a professional engineer and ease the burden for my hard-working parents.”
“During my first two years as a nursing student, I’ve worked 20 hours per week and maintained a 3.8 GPA. I’ll be starting clinical rotations and core classes this coming semester, and I know they’ll demand more time and energy. A $5,000 scholarship will allow me to focus on my studies and achieve my goal of providing exceptional healthcare to underserved communities.”
“After working hard to earn a 4.0 GPA in high school, I was one of just three women accepted into the top computer science program in the country. With your support, I can cover tuition costs and devote my energy to this challenging field. After graduation, I plan to pay it forward by mentoring other young women and increasing diversity in STEM careers.”
Other Beneficial Information to Include
Once you have the basic details in your statement of financial need, you may want to include some extra information. Choose details that enhance your application and make you a more desirable candidate. Some examples are:
Compelling personal story
Examples of your fiscal responsibility
Challenges you’ve already overcome
Past academic success
Projects that demonstrate dedication to your field of study
Once you have a story in mind, try to relate it to your future academic career. You can work in these details wherever it makes sense.
“At 15, I survived a near-fatal car accident. While going through intense physical therapy to relearn how to walk, I maintained my position on the dean’s list and became the president of the National Honor Society. I’m approaching my Physiology degree with that same drive and dedication.”
“I learned HTML in a high-school summer program, and started a side hustle building websites for local businesses. In three years, I saved $10,000 for college.”
When you’re applying for a scholarship or grant that’s aimed at a specific group of people, try to pick information that’s relevant to the application. In the statement of personal need for a “Diversity in Computer Science” scholarship, you might talk about how you started a free summer coding workshop for kids from low-income families. If you’re applying for merit-based scholarships, discuss your unbroken track record of straight-A report cards, AP classes, and extracurricular leadership.
As a rule of thumb, your letter should fit on one page — you don’t want to hand over a letter of financial need that requires extra pages and staples. If you can’t fit the extra details on a single page and you believe the extra information would help your case, edit out less-compelling sentences to make room.
Polite and Concise Conclusion
Wrap up your statement of financial need with a quick, polite conclusion. You don’t need to ramble on any longer than is necessary; at this point, the person reading your letter should already have a good idea about your financial situation and need. Instead, write a brief, respectful paragraph that lets the reader know that you’re thankful for the opportunity to receive a scholarship or aid.
When you’re short on space, the conclusion can be as simple as, “Thank you for considering my application; I appreciate your time and this valuable opportunity.”
If your letter is on the shorter side, the conclusion is a great place to work in a compelling detail. For example:
“With this scholarship, I’ll be able to spend the summer on an undergraduate research project instead of working to pay tuition. Thank you for taking the time to consider my application.”
“This scholarship would help me cover the cost of books and housing, so I can go to school and provide a safe home for my son. I appreciate your consideration.”
If you are unable to cover the cost of college, you’re not alone — there aren’t many students who can attend college without applying for scholarships and financial aid. The number of kids who can afford college without help today is dwindling fast, which means that you’ll have competition for the important scholarships and aid packages.
Great scholarship applications can help you stand out from the crowd and secure the funding you need. Your statement of financial need is an important part of those applications; make sure it rises to the top by including details that are meaningful yet concise. With a strong, compelling letter, you can find funding and start your college career off on a solid financial footing.