Special Circumstances/Professional Judgment

At Florida State University, we understand that there are various circumstances that may impact a student and their family’s financial situation which is not reflected in their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As a result of these circumstances, the Higher Education Act Sec. 479A (a) extends the latitude to institutions to exercise professional judgment to evaluate special circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Please see below for information regarding these special circumstances and how you can inform us of them

Main Categories of Special Circumstances

  • Changes in Financial Circumstances Reflecting Loss of Income: 
    • Situation Involving Loss of Employment/Business or Decrease in Salary/Wages
    • Separation/Divorce, Alimony, Child support 
    • Social Security benefits
    • One-time payment received
    • High/unusual out-of-pocket (unreimbursed) medical and/or dental expenses that exceed 11% of the Family’s Adjusted Gross Income
    • Death of Parent or Spouse
      • To be filed only if initial FAFSA data included deceased parent (or student's spouse) in income or household
    • Parental College Enrollment verification
      • Parent must be enrolled in a minimum of 6 credit hours (or equivalent clock hours) per term to be considered
  • Increases in Student’s Cost of Attendance Incurred While Attending the University: 
    • Computer Purchase
    • Child Care Expense 
    • Housing Expense Exceeding the Standard Allotted in Student's Cost of Attendance
    • Tuition Adjustments 


  • Changes in Family Dynamics That Justify Applying as an Independent Student (Dependency Override):
    • Abandonment by parents
    • An abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety
    • The student's inability to locate his/her parent 

How to Apply/Document Submission

Download form(s) from https://financialaid.fsu.edu/forms under the Special Circumstances tab. Please note, there are times when the student and parent may have more than one special circumstance occurring simultaneously which will require submission of separate applications. In addition, if a parent has more than one student attending FSU, documents must be submitted for each student separately

Note: If you or your parent earned income in a foreign nation, you must submit the tax information issued by the tax authority in that country. Please convert the income into U.S. dollars prior to submission

Processing Timeline

  • The estimated timeframe for review and processing of a special circumstance application is typically 6 to 8 weeks excluding peak periods 
  • To avoid processing delays, please carefully review the information provided on the form and ensure that adequate and appropriate documentation is provided for each application type 
  • Upon review, the student and or parent will be contacted via email advising that their application has been received and reviewed. If additional documentation is required, the email will include a comprehensive list of required documentation  
  • Special Circumstance applications for dependency overrides are typically processed within 3-5 business days excluding peak processing times. If additional documentation is required student will be contacted via telephone or email

**Please also note that approved special circumstances do not guarantee that any additional aid will be awarded. **