Unusual Circumstances

The FAFSA Simplification Act distinguishes between different categories of professional judgment by amending section 479A of the Higher Education Act (HEA). You are a dependent student if you are under the age of 24 and answered “No” to the dependency questions on the FAFSA (numbers 42-54). This definition means your parents must provide their financial information on the FAFSA and CSS Profile. 

However, Amherst recognizes that you may face challenging family circumstances and need to request reconsideration of your dependency status. Students who are unable to complete the FAFSA with parental information can request a dependency override by contacting the Office of Financial Aid. A dependency override occurs when the financial aid deans exercise professional judgement. 

The Office of Financial Aid reviews each request for a dependency override on a case-by-case basis. Requests will be reviewed within 2-3 weeks, and you will be notified by email to your Amherst address with the outcome.

The following are examples of unusual circumstances that may be considered for a dependency override:

  • Human Trafficking, as defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
  • Legally granted refugee or asylum status
  • An abusive family environment
  • Abandonment and/or estrangement by parents
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • Parents cannot be located

We are unable to take into consideration the following reasons for a dependency override:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA, Profile or verification
  • Parent unwillingness to provide income documentation
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency

Required Documentation 

Requests for a dependency override must be in writing as part of the Petition for Dependency Override, and provide details of your unusual circumstances; focus on the relationship between you and your parents. Requests must include letters or other supporting documentation from two third parties. Examples may include: school counselors, clergy, or family physicians.  Other documentation that may support an appeal for a dependency override may include court orders, restraining orders or other legal judgments. The Petition for Dependency Override and supporting documentation may be submitted in person, mailed, or faxed to the Office of Financial Aid. Additional information may be requested.