Professional Judgement/Special Circumstances

About Professional Judgement/Special Circumstances

Have a special circumstance? The Office of Financial Aid can use professional judgement to help eligible students receive financial aid.

Professional Judgement

Special Circumstance

Federal financial aid is based on a formula created by the U.S. Department of Education to determine a student’s Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) uses prior-prior year income information to determine your EFC and eligibility for federal financial aid (grants, loans, work-study). 

After filing the FAFSA, some families realize that their EFC may not adequately reflect the family’s current financial situation due to extenuating circumstances.  The federal government allows schools to review a family’s unique circumstances, beyond the student’s/family’s control, to determine if the situation warrants special consideration.  

Special/Unusual circumstances may include (but are not limited to): 

  • Loss/Change of employment 
  • Death of a Parent/Spouse 
  • Divorce/Separation 
  • Dependent Student marries after the FAFSA was filed 
  • Declared States of Emergency (COVID-19, Tornadoes, etc.) 
  • Abusive home environment
  • Student is homeless

Situations that are not considered special circumstances:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education;
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification;
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency;
  • Student and parents “don’t get along”
  • Student is a single parent or pregnant.
  • Vacation expenses
  • Standard living expenses (e.g. utilities, credit card expenses, children's allowances, etc.)
  • Mortgage payments
  • Car payments
  • Credit card or other personal debt problems
  • All other discretionary expenses

Please note: consideration of a special/unusual circumstance appeal does not guarantee approval. In addition, even if approved, a recalculation of FAFSA data does not always result in increased eligibility for the student. 

To request consideration of special circumstances, please submit using the PJ Advisor portal to expedite the financial aid appeal process. PJ Advisor is an accessible, intuitive tool that will guide you through the process to request a professional judgement/appeal.

PJ Advisor Portal

About Inceptia

Inceptia, a division of National Student Loan Program (NSLP), is a nonprofit organization committed to offering effective and uncomplicated solutions in verification, financial aid management, financial education, and repayment wellness. Our mission is to support schools as they launch brilliant futures for students, armed with the knowledge to become financially responsible citizens. Since 1986, we have helped more than two million students at 5,500 schools reach their higher education dreams. Each year we help nearly 340,000 students learn how to pay for college, navigate financial aid, borrow wisely, and resolve their student loan repayment challenges. Our solutions are designed to support student success by helping financial aid administrators maximize resources, so they can spend more time focusing on students. Learn more at