Students with unusual circumstances are defined as

• a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of unusual circumstances and in which the student is unable to contact a parent or where contact with parents poses a risk to such student, which includes circumstances of

  • human trafficking, as described in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.); 
  • legally granted refugee or asylum status; 
  • parental abandonment or estrangement; or 
  • student or parental incarceration.

Other students will continue to qualify as independent on their FAFSA form

Other students will continue to qualify as independent on their FAFSA form and not required to provide parental information if they 

  • were an orphan at the age of 13 or older; 
  • were a ward of the court;
  • are or were in foster care; 
  • were an emancipated minor or in a legal guardianship as determined by a court in the student’s state of legal residence; or 
  • are an unaccompanied homeless youth or unaccompanied, at risk of homelessness, and self-supporting.

What happens after the student submits their application?

Once they've submitted the FAFSA form, students will also need to provide supporting documentation of their circumstances directly to the institution they will attend. While students should contact their institution’s financial aid office if they have questions based upon their circumstance, institutions are now required to provide students with an overview of their review process, examples of supporting documentation, and estimated timelines for their request to be reviewed. 

Examples of supporting documentation may include:

  • a documented interview between the student and the financial aid administrator;
  • submission of a court order or official Federal or State documentation that the student’s parents or legal guardian are incarcerated; 
  • a documented phone call or written statement, which confirms the unusual circumstances with 
    • a state, county, or Tribal welfare agency; 
    • an independent living case worker who supports current and former foster youth with the transition to adulthood; or
    •  a public or private agency, facility, or program servicing the victims of abuse, neglect, assault, or violence; 
  • a documented phone call or written statement from an attorney, guardian ad litem, or court-appointed special advocate (or similar) that confirms the circumstances and their relationship to the student; 
  • a documented phone call or written statement from a representative at an institution of higher education that confirms the circumstances and their relationship to the student; or
  • utility bills, health insurance, or other documents that demonstrate a separation from parents or legal guardians.

Please be aware

Please be aware that proving self-sufficiency and living on your own are not adequate reasons for changing your dependency status and cannot be considered as an appealable circumstance. Completing this form and providing documentation does not guarantee that a change will be made.

If your parents are unwilling to provide their information, but you don’t have an unusual circumstance that prevents you from contacting them or obtaining their information, provide all student information and skip any questions about your parents. If you wish to apply only for a limited amount of Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you may continue to submit your FAFSA form, but your Student Aid Index (SAI) will not be calculated without your parents’ information

If you DO NOT have Unusual Circumstances, you will then need to update your FAFSA. You will need to change the question asking if you have Student Unusual Circumstances from “yes” to “no,” and also add parent information. Your FAFSA can be updated online at For more information on the FAFSA, see 

Please contact the Financial Aid Office if you need assistance