Skip to main content

SAP appeal: A step-by-step guide

    If you’re a student who’s lost your financial aid eligibility due to your academic standing, a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) appeal may help you regain access to your aid.

    The SAP appeal process is meant to help students showcase their progress with their grades or attendance and petition for their eligibility to receive financial aid back.

    Below, we’ve outlined the steps to begin the process, along with common questions many students have about it.

    What’s SAP?

    Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP, is a policy drafted by a college or university that outlines the academic requirements to acquire and keep your financial aid. When students accept their financial aid package, they agree to meet these academic requirements and stay in good standing throughout the year.

    The requirements differ from school to school, so it’s important to check with your financial aid office and academic counselor to determine what they are. Students who don’t meet SAP risk losing their financial aid eligibility permanently.

    What’s the SAP appeal process?

    If you’re at risk of losing financial aid eligibility due to your academic standing, you still can petition to reinstate your eligibility to receive aid. This process is called the SAP appeal process and generally requires you to show why you’ve fallen behind, how you’ve improved your performance, and that you have a plan for the future.

    What are good reasons to make a SAP appeal?

    If you’ve experienced hardships like a death in the family or a medical emergency that affected your academic performance, you can use the SAP appeal process to help your school understand your situation.

    Additionally, if you’ve fallen behind with your academic performance but have worked to improve it, you can also use this process to prove your progress.

    How to start a SAP appeal at your school

    First, check with your college or university to determine if a SAP appeal is permitted, and if so, what applications or documents are required to submit a SAP appeal. The information is often available via your college website or its administrative office.

    Generally, the process involves submitting an appeal application, writing a letter, and attaching documents supporting your appeal (such as doctor’s notes or death certificates). Once you know what’s required from your school, you’ll want to gather your documents and attach them to your application.

    Schools don’t necessarily need a SAP appeal letter, but explaining your situation may impact whether or not your appeal is approved. Your letter should include why you fell behind, your current academic standing, and your plan to continue to improve.

    When you’ve completed the application, have all your documents, and have written the appeal letter, it’s time to submit your application to your school. Check with your school on how to submit your information, as each has a different process.

    SAP appeal letter template

    We’ve provided a template you can use as a starting point for a SAP appeal letter. Ensure that you adjust it to fit your situation and showcase how you’ll continue improving your academic performance.



    School Name

    Full Name

    Student ID


    To Whom It May Concern,


    I’m writing to submit a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal in hopes of getting my financial aid eligibility reinstated. I wanted to provide some insights into why I fell behind and how I plan to continue to improve my performance.

    1st Paragraph: What happened?

    In March 2022, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she needed assistance getting to and from doctor appointments for chemotherapy treatments and help with her general day-to-day needs.

    While I could maintain my attendance in each class during this time, I couldn’t successfully complete my classwork and set aside adequate time to study. Unfortunately, this caused me to fall behind in my classes, and my academic performance suffered.

    2nd Paragraph: How will this change?

    Fortunately, I have a great academic advisor, Dr. Cook, who’s helped me create an execution plan for the upcoming semester. We scheduled my classes for Monday through Thursday so I could spend Friday through Sunday at home caring for my mom. We also scheduled only afternoon classes on Monday so I can spend three nights at home. My family has also hired an in-home nurse to help my mom with her medical needs when I have class so I can focus on classwork and studying. I’ll spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the Student Center and Mondays in the library with a new study group to help me catch up and get back on track.

    3rd Paragraph: Documentation

    I’m attaching the following documents:

    • A 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


    How long does it take to process a SAP appeal?

    The time it takes to process a SAP appeal depends on your college or university. Many colleges include how long the process takes on their website. It’s a good practice to follow up with your college’s administrative office weekly to ensure they have what they need and to keep the process on track.

    How to get a SAP appeal approved

    The best way to get a SAP appeal approved is to give your school as much information as possible about why you fell behind and showcase your desire to improve. More than anything, colleges and universities want to see that you’re taking steps to improve your standing and are serious about doing better.

    That’s why proving your progress and outlining a plan in an appeal letter may help. However, it’s important to note that every school has its own requirements and approval process, and you may still not get approved even if your letter is compelling.

    What happens if your SAP appeal is denied

    A common question people ask if their SAP appeal is denied is what happens to the financial aid funds that came from filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)? Unfortunately, if your SAP appeal is denied, you likely can’t get your FAFSA® financial aid back for that payment period. However, you can still do a few things to attempt to get your eligibility to receive financial aid back in the future.

    If your appeal is denied, talk with your academic counselor about the reasoning behind the denial. Schools will generally allow students to appeal up to three times per semester to get their aid back, so knowing why the denial happened might help you create a better appeal the second time.

    Appeals are denied for several reasons. Sometimes it's because there’s a lack of supporting documents or it could be because not much academic progress has been made on the student's part. If you plan to re-appeal, ensure you have all the proper documents and that you’ve worked hard to get into a better academic position.

    Final thoughts

    Undoubtedly, having your financial aid eligibility suspended because you failed to maintain SAP feels daunting. Reach out for support to your academic advisor and to the financial aid office at your school to help you figure out the next steps to take.