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Unusual Circumstances and FAFSA Dependency Status

Students who are considered dependent for federal financial aid purposes are required to include parent information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are a dependent student who has unusual circumstances that have resulted in a breakdown in your relationship with your parents, you may ask the Financial Aid Office to review your situation to determine if you qualify to be considered independent for financial aid purposes.

What Circumstances Qualify?

Requests to be considered independent are reviewed on a case-by-case basis after reviewing a student’s unique situation. Circumstances that may warrant making a student independent include when parent cannot be contacted or the parent poses a risk or threat to the student. The following are some examples of situations that may qualify:

  • Parent incarceration or institutionalization
  • Physical, verbal, or emotional abuse in the family
  • Parents cannot be located
  • Parent abandonment or estrangement
  • Student is a victim of human trafficking
  • Student is an asylee or refugee who came to the United States without a parent

Students who request a review of their FAFSA dependency status must document that unusual circumstances exist with both biological or adoptive parents. For example, a student who has one parent who is incarcerated would not qualify to be independent unless the student could also document an unusual circumstance with the parent who is not incarcerated.

What Circumstances Do Not Qualify?

Please note that dependent students cannot be deemed independent for financial aid purposes based on any of the following:

  • Student filing taxes as an independent student
  • Parent refusal to complete the FAFSA or FAFSA verification
  • Parent refusal to contribute to the student’s education
  • Student being self-supporting

How do I apply?

  1. Complete the FAFSA at
  2. Complete the Change in Dependency Status Form.
  3. The Financial Aid Office will contact you to schedule a meeting for a Financial Aid Administrator to interview you and advise you of the documentation you will need to submit to support your request.
  4. Submit the required documentation to the Financial Aid Office
    1. Change in Dependency Status Form
    2. Change in Dependency Status Third Party Statement Form
  5. A determination will be made within 30 days of your submitting your FAFSA for the award year and providing all of the requested documentation.
  6. You will be notified of the outcome of your request by email to your Jack’s email account.

Do I need to reapply next year?

In most cases, if your request to be independent for financial aid purposes is approved, you won’t need to submit new documentation in subsequent years. The exception to this would be if the SDSU has conflicting information related to your unusual circumstance that would need to be resolved before making you independent in subsequent years. The Financial Aid Office will contact students who have conflicting information that needs to be resolved.