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Unusual Circumstances

Most students are considered "dependent" for federal aid purposes based on specific questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

This means that parent information is usually required on the FAFSA. Students are not automatically considered "independent" if they support themselves or are not claimed on parent taxes. For more information on what determines dependency, visit the Federal Student Aid Dependency Status website. According to the FAFSA Simplification Act, unusual circumstances refer to the conditions that justify an aid administrator making an adjustment to a student's dependency status based on a unique situation (or professional judgment), more commonly referred to as a dependency override.

There are extraordinary circumstances in which students may appeal their dependency.

*There are limitations to the circumstances the U.S. Department of Education will allow financial aid professionals to consider for appeal. To remain equitable, our office will review all applications on a case-by-case basis (also referred to as a professional judgment).

May Be Considered for Appeal

  • Student's parents are incarcerated.
  • Student has left home due to an abusive family environment.
  • Student is a victim of human trafficking.
  • Student has been granted refugee or asylee status.
  • Student was abandoned by or estranged from your parents and have not been adopted.
  • Other

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May Not Be Considered for Appeal

  • Student is not living in the parents' home.
  • Student is self-supporting.
  • Student is not claimed as a tax exemption by parents.
  • Parents cannot afford or refuse to help with college or living expenses.
  • Parents are unwilling to provide their financial information to complete the FAFSA; if this is the case, see our Forms webpage to submit a FAFSA Parent Information Refusal form for limited Federal Direct Loan consideration.

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Request and Complete an Unusual Circumstance Appeal (student instructions)

  1. Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  2. Go to the StudentForms website.
    1. Please wait at least 48 to 72 hours after submitting your FAFSA.
    2. If you have not set up your StudentForms account, you may need to do so. See our StudentForms Account webpage for instructions.
  3. After you have logged into StudentForms, click on the "Manage Requests" button near the top of the page.
  4. Find "Professional Judgment: Unusual Circumstance Appeal" listed. Click the blue plus + sign button to add the request for the appropriate aid year. Example: 2024-2025 is for fall 2024 and spring and summer 2025.
  5. The system will ask you to briefly explain your reason for this request. This does not need to be in-depth. You will provide more information as part of the appeal later in the process.
  6. Once you have added the appeal, a tab should be listed on your account with an Unusual Circumstance Appeal for the aid year. Click on the tab to see and take action on your appeal tasks.
  7. Your appeal tasks will include providing a detailed statement for your appeal and third-party documentation to strengthen and support your appeal. Your statement should include:
    1. An explanation of the extraordinary family circumstances that led to leaving your parents' household
    2. Your past and present relationship with both of your parents
    3. How you are supporting yourself
    4. The date you last had contact with both of your parents
  8. Once you have filled out the web form and uploaded your supporting third-party documentation, click the "Submit" button to submit your appeal.
    1. Third-party documentation can include, but is not limited to, recognized third parties such as private or publicly funded homeless shelters and service providers, financial aid administrators from another college or high school counselors, other mental health professionals, social workers, mentors, doctors, police, and clergy. This documentation must be signed by the third-party professional and on company letterhead (if letterhead is available).
    2. Additional documentation may include, but is not limited to, submission of a court order or official federal or state documentation that the student or student’s parents or legal guardians are incarcerated.
  9. Once all requested documentation is submitted, the student will receive an email notification of the outcome of the review within five to seven business days. Please note this time may be extended during peak processing times.

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