GREENSBORO, N.C. — College is expensive. So what do you do when you need a certain amount of money to attend a school but they offer you a lot less than you need.

First, you can appeal the decision to the school. Some appeals are successful when the family was able to prove a change in financial situation or the school is matching a better offer from a similar school.

You need to know the school's process. Some will even offer merit-based scholarships, which are usually handled by the admissions department. Check the school's website to see how it handles appeals. Schools often consider things like job loss, a parent's change in marital status, or having volatile income (things like being in sales or running your own business.)

Keep in mind, there are more than 100 questions on a FAFSA application so check for errors. Common errors include reporting the money in retirement accounts, or not including stepchildren in household size. 

If you plan to appeal, keep the letter short, just 1 or 2 pages. And include any documents that could help prove your case, like a layoff notice or medical bill.

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