Special Circumstances on the FAFSA

If you’ve submitted your 2023-24 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and feel it doesn’t accurately reflect your family’s current situation, contact your college or career technology center’s financial aid office. They can oftentimes assist you with special circumstances you and your family may be facing.

Dependency Status       

If you answer NO to all 13 dependency questions on the FAFSA, you’ll be considered a dependent student, which means you’ll be asked to report one or both parents’ income information on your FAFSA, as well as your own. Supplying parental information, however, can be a challenge to some students due to ‘special circumstances.’ If you choose to state that you’re unable to provide parental information on your FAFSA, you’ll see a message that states you’ll only qualify for a Federal Unsubsidized Student Loan. In this situation you should continue with your FAFSA and submit it without parent information or parent signature. Then, once you have been notified that your Student Aid Report (SAR) is ready, be sure to contact the financial aid office at your school of interest to explain your situation.

A financial aid officer may be able to override your dependency status based on documentation provided by you and others that explain your circumstances. Some examples might be:

  • an abusive family environment
  • incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • parents’ whereabouts are unknown or parents cannot be located
  • court orders protecting a student from abuse

Check out our FAFSA Dependency Status flyer to review the questions used to determine if you’re considered independent or dependent.

Adjustments to Family Income

If you and your parents have experienced a loss of income since 2021*, be sure to talk to your financial aid office. Income may have changed due to:

  • change in employment status
  • a divorce or separation
  • unusual medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • unusual dependent care expenses

Once you provide documentation that shows your current family income, a financial aid officer may be able to adjust the income figures to reflect your current situation rather than what was shown on your latest tax return. Only someone from your financial aid office can adjust those figures.

The financial aid professionals at your college will always be your best resource when you have questions about special circumstances. It’s important to contact them if you have any questions or concerns.

*Information from the 2021 tax year must be reported on the 2023-24 FAFSA.