Professional Judgment (PJ)

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. There are three primary PJ areas: 

  • Changes in financial circumstances reflecting loss of income, examples include: 
    • Reduced Employment
    • Layoff/Termination
    • Unemployment
    • Child support 
    • Alimony
    • 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
    • Separation or divorce
    • Death of parent or spouse
    • Special education school costs
    • Special dependent care expenses
  • Increases in the student’s Cost of Attendance to account for exceptional expenditures a student might incur while attending the university which are not accounted for in the average students Cost of Attendance. Such expenditures include but are not limited to: 
    • Computer purchase
    • Child care expense 
    • Housing expense that exceeds the standard allotted in students Cost of Attendance
    • Tuition Adjustments 
  • Dependency Override examines changes in family dynamics that lead a student to believe that they have exceptional extenuating circumstances that justify applying as an independent student. These circumstances include but are not limited to the following examples:
    • 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 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. 

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. ** 

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