Financial Aid & Scholarship Office

Unusual Circumstances - Dependency Status Appeal

Are you independent or dependent?

Under federal guidelines, most undergraduate students are dependent for the purposes of filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or CA Dream Act Application (CADAA) and must provide parent information on this application. The unusual circumstances dependency appeal process allows a student who has extenuating circumstances to appeal to be considered independent, even though they do not meet any of the independent student criteria on the FAFSA or CADAA.

Submission Reasons

  • Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Irreconcilable differences within the family

Reasons that cannot be considered include:

  • The student is financially self-sufficient
  • Parent(s) no longer claim the student on their tax return
  • Parent(s) refusal or inability to pay for the student's education

Once an appeal is submitted, we will review the appeal and supporting documentation. If necessary, additional information may be requested. The student will be notified within eight weeks of the submission of a complete appeal.

Approval of an unusual circumstances dependency appeal does not guarantee independent status in future years. A new appeal must be submitted each year.

Appeal Requirements

To file a unusual circumstances dependency appeal, sign on to your Financial Aid Account and request a "Professional Judgement: Unusual Circumstances Appeal". If you don't have a Financial Aid Account, follow the instructions to create your Financial Aid Account

The student must provide the following documents:

  1. A completed electronic dependency appeal form
  2. A signed, detailed letter from you explaining the extenuating circumstance, including the relationship with both biological or adoptive parents
  3. A separate letter from an independent 3rd party source (ex. counselor, medical authority, clergy, court, government agency) who can attest first-hand to your extenuating circumstances. This letter must be detailed and include as much information about your situation as possible
  4. If a letter from an independent source cannot be provided, you must give the reason it cannot be provided in your appeal letter. In this case, you may submit a signed letter from another source (family member for example) in its place.

A student must also submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or CA Dream Act Application (CADAA) online. In the Dependency Status section of the FAFSA or CADAA, the student will answer the preset dependency questions and then indicate they have a special circumstance and are not able to provide parental information. The FAFSA or CADAA will be submitted without calculating an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If the dependency appeal is approved, our Financial Aid & Scholarship Office will make updates to the FAFSA or CADAA which will allow the calculation of a new EFC.