Excess Contributions Special Circumstances Essay

Special Financial Circumstances

If you or your family have encountered personal or financial hardships that were not accurately reflected at the time you filled out your FAFSA, Financial Aid can review your file for consideration of special circumstances. Financial Aid representatives can make professional judgment decisions on a case-by-case basis to change a dependent student's status to independent, to increase or decrease one or more of the data elements used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and/or increase the cost of attendance.

Each of these decisions are made on an individual basis and will require supporting documentation. Examples of such special circumstances appear below.

Request for Independent Status (Dependency Override)

In some cases, Financial Aid can override the dependency status for a student and change that status to independent. According to the Department of Education, a student who is 23 years of age or younger is classified as a dependent student. However, if extenuating circumstances exists (such as an abusive, detrimental or non-existent relationship with both parents), a professional judgment decision can be made by a financial aid representative to grant independent status for a year.

None of the following examples warrant a dependency override:

  • 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 student as a dependent for income tax purposes.
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

If you wish for us to consider a request for independent status, please submit the following:

  1. Submit your FAFSA for the applicable aid year online at www.fafsa.ed.gov and bypass parent income information. As a reminder, the priority deadline to submit your FAFSA for the next aid year is March 15.
  2. Submit the Request for Independent Status Form for the applicable aid year.
  3. A typed letter detailing the special circumstances that explain the reason for your request and discusses your relationship with your parents.
  4. Two statements from professionals (teacher counselor, clergy, social worker) familiar with your situation that further outlines and verifies the special circumstances. The statements must include address and telephone numbers from the professionals and should be on letterhead.
  5. Submit a signed copy of your most recent aid year's federal income tax return, if you filed, and all W2s or paystubs/W2 if you earned income but did not file.

Typically we begin to process Requests for Independent Status in May for the next aid year. Processing time will take several weeks. You will be sent a notification of the result to your preferred email account as indicated on ASAP.

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Adjustments to Income

Loss of Income (Student and/or Parent)

In some cases, a loss of income has occurred that can directly affect the outcome of your FAFSA results. Since your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is based on the previous year's income, a loss of income for the current year may reduce your EFC, which will result in additional need eligibility. Submitting a Loss of Income Form for the applicable aid year along with all supporting documentation will allow us to review your current financial situation.

Some examples of a Loss of Income for both students and parents include:

  • Loss of employment, reduction of hours or loss of income benefit for someone in the household.
  • Divorce or separation or death of a spouse or parent.
  • A one-time, non-recurring payment received in the previous aid year that has been exhausted.

Typically we begin to process Loss of Income forms in May for the next aid year. Processing time will take several weeks. You will be sent a notification of the result to your preferred email account as indicated on ASAP.

Parent Additional Expense

Parents of dependent students may experience additional expenses that could also impact their ability to contribute to their child's education. These cases can be addressed in the Parent Additional Expense Form and include:

  • Private School Tuition Expenses
  • Unusual Medical and/or Dental Expenses
  • Extended Family Support
  • Unusual Debts (non-discretionary debt)

Typically we begin to process Loss of Income forms in May for the next aid year. Processing time will take several weeks. You will be sent a notification of the result to your preferred email account as indicated on ASAP.

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Adjustments to Student's Cost of Attendance

Your cost of attendance includes expenses such as tuition, fees, housing, meals, transportation, books and supplies and personal expenses. If you have an extenuating circumstance that would merit an increase of your cost of attendance, you can submit the Cost of Attendance Adjustment Form for the applicable aid year for us to review. All supporting documentation must be included with the form. The following items can be taken into consideration for an increase of a student's cost of attendance:

  • Child Care Expenses
  • Elementary & Secondary Education for Dependents
  • Additional Course Costs/Thesis & Dissertation Expenses
  • Unusual Medical/Dental/Optical Expenses
  • Extended Family Support
  • Unusual Debts (non-discretionary)
  • Transportation (repairs or round trip mileage expense that exceed 150 miles traveled per week) - does not include regular car payments, maintenance, or insurance

Typically we begin to process Loss of Income forms in May for the next aid year. Processing time will take several weeks. You will be sent a notification of the result to your preferred email account as indicated on ASAP.

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Financial Aid Appeals

If a student and/or parent has an issue they are unable to resolve which is not appropriate to use the normal means of the Financial Aid Appeal Committee (such as the need to resolve a conflict or dispute or file a complaint about a policy or procedure), the individual is encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson is not an advocate for any individual or group on campus; instead, the Ombudsperson is an advocate for fairness.  To contact the UTSA Financial Aid Ombudsman outside of the Financial Aid Appeal Committee, please send an email to Associate Director Kim Canady at kim.canady@utsa.edu.

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By: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.

If you are a Senior applying to college right now, you may have something extra that you want the colleges to know about, like a family situation or something that affected your grades.  Kids, though, are often not sure how to go about sharing this info, or even if this is the right time and place to share it.  I think that if something has had a significant impact on you that your colleges are going to be interested to know about it.

Here are some common examples of things a student might want to let their colleges know about:

I couldn’t take a certain AP class because of a schedule conflict
My family moved
I had a health issue
A teacher at school passed away
I’m not a strong test taker
I worked to support family while in high school
Why I changed schools
Why I studied abroad for a semester
I didn’t have proper prerequisites for a course
A certain course was not offered at my high school

These are just some ideas, and certainly anything that you have struggled with, dealt with, worked on, managed or overcome is fair game in this category.  Basically, the colleges do want know about you and your background and your upbringing–particularly if any of these things affected your grades or your academic performance.

Another consideration about sharing these circumstances is that you can tell your colleges how this will help you to relate to other students who might go through these same struggles.  Being able to support your peers is a very valuable offering as a friend and something that colleges would be glad to know about. You could even go on to be a peer mentor and help other students through similar difficulties.

These essays are typically a paragraph to a page long, and we have samples of them on the CollegeMapper Essays page. You want to make the piece positive in tone. Avoid blaming others for your struggles or getting personal to the point of making the reader uncomfortable. DO tell about your experience and the challenges you faced, but most importantly, focus on what you learned and let the reader hear that you are a positive, proactive person and that no matter what obstacles life throws your way you are going to learn from them, grow stronger, and move forward to achieve your goals.

Be sure to let your colleges know if there is something unique or tough about your life, but also be sure to let them know that nothing’s going to stop you from reaching your dreams!

Yay, college!

This entry was posted in Advice and tagged evergreen, how to tell a college about my special circumstances, special circumstances for college by Susanna Cerasuolo. Bookmark the permalink.

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