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How Change in Circumstances Forms Work

Last updated November 20, 2023

If your family’s financial circumstances have changed since you received your financial aid award letter from your college, resulting in a need for more aid, you may be eligible to complete a change in circumstances form. But what does change in circumstances mean and how does this form work? We break it down!

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Four people sit in a school library. Two young women sit in the background and two young men sit in the foreground. One types on his computer while the other looks over his shoulder - How Change in Circumstances Forms Work

What is a change in circumstances form?

Many college financial aid offices offer a change in circumstances form, which allows you to formally request that your school takes a deeper look at your family’s current financial situation by submitting supporting documentation. Depending on your school, the form may go by a different name, such as “Special Condition/Income Adjustment Form”, “Change to Your Award Request”, or “Change of Circumstances Appeal.”

What is a change in financial circumstances?

A change in your family’s financial circumstances can include (but is not limited to) job loss, income reduction, change in marital or dependency status, and unexpected medical expenses. If you provide documentation to your school’s financial aid office that shows your family’s financial situation underwent notable changes during the past two years, your financial aid award could be adjusted to reflect your circumstances, potentially increasing your aid.

How to complete a change in circumstances form

While a change in circumstances form can differ depending on your college, here is what the process typically looks like:

  1. Contact your college’s financial aid office to request a change in circumstances form and/or set up an appointment with them.
  2. Provide documentation that indicates that your family’s financial situation underwent notable changes in the past two years. Some examples of that include:
    1. Signed and dated copy of their most recent tax return, including W2(s) and/or 1099(s).
    2. Letter of separation from an employer.
    3. Copy of an unemployment benefits statement.
    4. Recent pay stubs.
    5. Proof of change in marital status.
  3. Complete the form as instructed by your college. In the instance where your dependency status changes, you may be required to update your FAFSA.

You may also be required to submit an appeal letter detailing your change in circumstances. We recommend using SwiftStudent to help– a program that helps you write a financial aid appeal letter for free.

What if I don’t have the required documentation?

There are some cases in which a student may be unable to provide the financial information of a parent or guardian. Colleges may be able to grant a dependency override, which is usually a longer process and will require submitting more supporting documentation. If you are unable to provide your parent or guardian’s financial documents, get in touch with your financial aid office to explain your specific situation. They can support you through the process of appealing for a dependency override, which means that you may be considered an “independent” student rather than a “dependent” one.

Dependency overrides are typically available for students with complex familial situations, such as:

  • Those experiencing insecure housing (McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act).
  • Those living in foster care.
  • Those who are emancipated minors.
  • Those who have estranged relationships with their parents or guardians.

What to expect after submitting the form

Depending on the school, the review process for a change in circumstances can take weeks or months. If approved, your financial aid award will be adjusted to reflect your current financial circumstances.

If your change in circumstances form is denied, talk to a financial aid advisor to see if any adjustments can be made to your existing award. You can also find other forms of financial aid, such as scholarships or student loans.

Need some help navigating the financial aid process? We’re here to help! Text #FAFSA to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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