In order for you to continue receiving financial aid, the federal government requires that you meet your school's Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements. Every school's SAP policies are different. Below is an overview of the three SAP requirements.
Maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) – as determined by the school.
Complete and pass a minimum percentage of the credit hours attempted – as determined by the school.
Complete degree or certificate requirements within the maximum number of hours required allowed by your institution.
When you don't meet the requirements above, you may be placed on financial aid warning or suspension. Once your financial aid is suspended because you didn't meet SAP requirements, some schools allow you to submit an appeal to regain financial aid eligibility. If a request is granted, your financial aid can be reinstated with a "probationary status" that requires you to meet requirements each time your school evaluates your academic progress.
The government does not specify all of the situations that could qualify as a special circumstance, and your school has internal policies about what they consider reasonable. Generally, a special circumstance could be an injury or illness, the death of a relative, loss of/change in employment or responsibilities, domestic violence, pregnancy, loss of childcare, divorce, separation, or other situations that shifted your focus away from school.
It's best not to assume what type of situation qualifies as a special circumstance for SAP appeals. You should open the conversation with your financial aid office or academic advisor and ask their advice, or you can start by sending the free SwiftStudent SAP Appeal form.
It may take the financial aid office some time to evaluate your request, so you should ask the financial aid office about this option as soon as possible. While deadlines vary by school, it is best to share your situation promptly to make sure you don't miss out on support or information about the process.
Your best next step is to visit your school's financial aid website or to contact your financial aid office. Some schools have online forms, some schools have walk-in hours and others have appointment only options. Schools are required to share their SAP policies openly, so you will probably find resources on this topic.
If your school does not offer a form online and you cannot reach out to the financial aid office during business hours, you can start the conversation with your financial aid office by submitting the SwiftStudent Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Appeal.
Be sure to use the free SwiftStudent worksheet to help you keep track of your interactions with your financial aid office.
The federal government expects each school to collect documentation to support any approval, but it's up to your financial aid office to determine what documents are required. The goal of these documents is to confirm the special circumstance that prevented you from meeting SAP requirements.
If the primary issue was injury or illness, you can consider submitting documentation from a medical provider. In the case of a relative's death, consider submitting a funeral program or death certificate. A loss or change in employment could be confirmed through termination letters or work schedule showing change in hours. Supporting documents can include a signed letter from someone who knows your situation— a teacher, counselor, medical authority, member of the clergy, prison administrator, social worker, government agency, or court.
Keep in mind that your appeal must not only explain why you failed to meet SAP requirements, but it also must detail how you plan to meet requirements next time. An academic plan may be required, so you should reach out to your academic advisor for assistance.
When you submit documents, please remember:
Do not submit original documents to your financial aid office. The financial aid office needs to retain documentation for their records, so they can't return them to you. You should submit copies of your documents only.
Be sure to keep a written record of your communications with the financial aid office, including copies of letters and conversation notes. You can download a free SwiftStudent worksheet to help you keep track of names, dates, and conversations.
Your financial aid office may need additional documents or information to make a decision.
Make sure to check your official school email address every day so that you don't miss a response from your financial aid office. You can also reach out to your financial aid office to check on the status of your request.
If your request is approved, be sure to ask when the next time the financial aid office will check if you are meeting the SAP requirements. It's important to understand if you will have to submit future appeals and what happens if you don't meet requirements next time.
If your request is denied, it doesn't mean you're out of options. Ask your financial aid office why the request was denied and what other community or institutional resources are available.