Professional Judgement

Professional Judgments


Special Circumstance

Federal financial aid is based on a formula created by the U.S. Department of Education to determine a student’s Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) uses prior-prior year income information to determine your EFC and eligibility for federal financial aid (grants, loans, work-study). After filing the FAFSA, some families realize that their EFC may not adequately reflect the family’s current financial situation due to extenuating circumstances.  The federal government allows schools to review a family’s unique circumstances, beyond the student’s/family’s control, to determine if the situation warrants special consideration.  


Please note that a request for consideration of a special/unusual circumstance appeal does not guarantee approval.  In addition, even if approved, a recalculation of FAFSA data does not always result in increased eligibility for the student. 


Special/Unusual circumstances may include (but are note limited to): 

  • Loss/Change of employment 
  • Death of a Parent/Spouse 
  • Divorce/Separation 
  • Dependent Student marries after the FAFSA was filed 
  • Declared States Of Emergency (COVID-19, Tornadoes, etc.) 


If you believe you qualify for a Special Circumstance please follow the steps to Request A Professional Judgement.


Dependency Appeal

Your dependency status is determined when you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are considered “dependent,” your financial aid eligibility is based on your income and assets plus your parents’ income and assets.


A student considered Dependent may have family circumstances that warrant evaluation so that the student can be considered Independent. The bases of a dependency appeal must be rooted in circumstances that are unusual. These circumstances may include:


  • Abusive home environment
  • Abandonment
  • Student is homeless
  • Student is unaccompanied
  • Parent death after FAFSA was completed


The following situations do not, by themselves, qualify as unusual circumstances in order to grant an appeal:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education;
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification;
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency;
  • Student and parents “don’t get along”
  • Student is a single parent or pregnant.


If you believe you qualify for a Dependency Appeal, please follow the steps to Request a Professional Judgement for your dependency status.


Steps to Request a Professional Judgment: 

  1. Contact a Financial Aid Administrator, or to initiate a conversation about your situation; 
  2. Submit all documentation for the appeal request to one of the Financial Aid Administrators.
  3. Work closely with that Financial Aid Administrator in order to have a complete appeal file 
  4. Await a decision. Your Financial Aid Administrator will notify you via email of the decision 


Professional Judgment Resource: 

Swift Student- Started in 2020, SwiftStudent is the only free, central repository of financial aid appeals/requests letter templates for students. It is a free, foundation-backed resource designed with college students and financial aid officers in mind.