Consider Special Circumstances When Preparing the FAFSA

Communicate unique situations to the school's financial aid administrator.


The guiding principle of student financial aid is that, to the extent they are able, the student and his or her family have the primary responsibility to pay for educational expenses.

However, many unique or special circumstances cannot be adequately addressed on the FAFSA. They nonetheless warrant consideration when a family's ability to pay for college expenses is assessed. In such cases, students and their families should communicate their unique situation to a financial aid administrator at their school. With proper and adequate documentation, a financial aid administrator may be able to make arrangements with the family, including reevaluating the student's eligibility for financial aid.

Financial Situations

Examples of circumstances that may call for a reevaluation of the student's financial situation include:

  • A reduction in income; or
  • A catastrophic illness that has resulted in a depletion of assets or an increase in debt.

Dependency Issues

If a student does not meet the definition of an independent student, but believes that it is inappropriate or impossible to provide parental information on the FAFSA, the student should consult the aid administrator at the school he or she wishes to attend. Sometimes a student has unusual circumstances that may justify overriding his or her dependency status. A financial aid administrator may, on a case-by-case basis, override the student's dependency status and make the student independent for federal financial aid purposes. However, the ultimate decision to do this rests with the aid administrator, and his or her decision on dependency is final.


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