Unusual Circumstances

Dependency Status

The federal student aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily your and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. A dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents; therefore, the parents’ information has to be assessed along with the student’s in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength. If you’re a dependent student, it doesn’t mean your parents are required to pay anything toward your education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner.

What makes a student Dependent or Independent?

  • Born before January 1, 2000 (2023-24 FAFSA) or January 1, 2001 for (2024-25 FAFSA)
  • Married as of the date FAFSA signed
  • Have children who receive more than half their support from the student, OR have legal dependents, other than a spouse or children, who live with student and receive more than half their support from the student
  • Attending graduate level program of study during the academic year
  • Veteran of U.S. Armed Forces (or will be a veteran), or have attended a service academy and were released under a condition other than dishonorable
  • Currently serving on active duty in U.S. Armed Forces (other than for training)
  • Emancipated Minor or in Legal Guardianship as determined by the court in her/his state of legal residence
  • Orphan, ward of the court, foster care (after age 13)
  • A self-supporting unaccompanied youth who is homeless or at risk of homelessness (as certified by governmental or school agency)

A student who does not meet ANY of the above classifications is classified as a Dependent student.


Appealing your FAFSA Dependency Status

Some student situations will require extra discretion in determining the student’s ability to provide parental information on the FAFSA. Our office provides the opportunity for students to appeal their FAFSA Dependency Status by submitting documentation of your situation. A dependency override occurs when a financial aid administrator exercises professional judgment and overrides the Department of Education’s criteria for dependent students. You must clearly demonstrate an adverse family situation in order to be considered independent for financial aid purposes. 

  • What conditions COULD warrant a Dependency Override?

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  • What conditions DO NOT warrant a Dependency Override?

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Documenting Your Circumstances

Documentation is critical to the dependency override process. The documentation must support the decision and should, in almost all cases, originate from a third party that knows your situation (e.g., a teacher, counselor, medical professional, member of the clergy, corrections officer, social worker, or court liaison) and establish the unusual circumstances. Evidence can be a signed letter or an official document, such as a court order. If third party documentation is not available, in very rare circumstances we may accept signed and dated statements from friends and family members detailing the unusual circumstances.


Applying for a Dependency Status Petition

You should complete this form if you are considered a dependent student for federal financial aid and believe you have compelling extenuating circumstances which should allow you to be considered an independent student. We understand the sensitive nature of these circumstances; all documentation received by our office will be kept confidential.

Return the completed form below along with the following to the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships:

  • Written documentation from appropriate persons and/or agencies confirming the specifics as identified via the petition
  • a signed copy of your federal income tax return and all W2s, OR paystubs and W2s if you earned income but did not file
    • For 2023-2024 provide the 2021 tax return and W2’s
    • For 2024-2025 provide the 2022 tax return and W2’s

To apply for Fall 2023 – Summer 2024, please complete the 2023-2024 Dependency Status Petition

To apply for Fall 2024 – Summer 2025, please complete the 2024-2025 Dependency Status Petition. 

Please note that submitting a petition does not guarantee an approval of the appeal. There is also no guarantee an approved appeal will result in more or different types of aid awarded to the student.

  • Review of Unusual Circumstances

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  • Denied Appeals

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  • Parental Refusal

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