Special Circumstance Request

We understand that sometimes your FAFSA does not accurately reflect you or your family’s ability to pay for college. A Special Circumstance Request may result in additional or increased federal grants (Pell/SEOG), state grants (Cal Grant), and/or need-based loans (subsidized loans). Typically, an increase in institutional aid (merit scholarships) is not considered.

Here are some situations that might make you eligible to file a Special Circumstance Request.

  • Prolonged (three months or more) loss of income due to unemployment of your parent (dependent students only)
  • Prolonged (three months or more) loss of income due to unemployment of you or your spouse (independent students only)
  • Prolonged (three months or more) reduction of income due to a pay cut or reduced hours of your parent (dependent students only) or of you or your spouse (independent students only)
  • The death of a parent or spouse
  • A separation or divorce after the FAFSA was filed
  • Conversion of a regular IRA into a Roth IRA by transferring funds
  • A one-time (non-recurring) type of income that was reflected on the FAFSA
  • Out-of-pocket medical expenses

If any of the criteria above apply to you, we encourage you to reach out to us. You should only file an appeal after one of these situations has occurred. Appeals based on future projections or anticipated events will be denied.

Note: If the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is zero, you are not eligible to complete an appeal as you are currently receiving the maximum amounts in federal, state, and institutional aid for which you qualified. In addition, only undergraduate students are eligible to apply.

In general, the following situations would not be eligible for a Special Circumstance Request:

  • Voluntary home repairs
  • Credit Card debt
  • Bankruptcy
  • Inheritance or lottery winnings
  • Vacation or tithing expenses
  • Standard living expenses (related to utilities, credit card expenses, children’s allowances, etc.)
  • K-12 tuition expenses (exceptions may apply)

How to file a Special Circumstance Request:

Please keep in mind:

  • You must have a completed FAFSA to file this appeal.
  • If you were selected for verification or if you have any other financial aid requirements, those must also be complete before your appeal can be reviewed.
  • You should only file an appeal after one of the situations above has occurred. Appeals based on future projections or anticipated events will be denied.
  1. Set up a time to talk to us. You can schedule a virtual appointment, call us at (415) 422-3387, or email us at financialaid@usfca.edu. We'll ask you some questions to better understand your situation.
  2. If you are eligible for a Special Circumstance Request, you’ll receive an email notification to log in to an online platform where you will be asked to upload required documents. For example, you may need to provide a letter of termination from an employer or tax statements/pay stubs showing reduced income (see below for more details). The sooner we receive your documents, the sooner we can move forward in the process. 
  3. If your request is approved, you will be notified via email and an updated financial aid offer should appear in myUSF within two weeks. You may see additional or increased federal grants (Pell/SEOG), state grants (Cal Grant), and/or need-based loans (subsidized loans). Typically, an increase in institutional aid (merit scholarships) is not considered.
  4. If your request is denied, you will be notified via email with a specific reason as to why your request was denied. Please read the email carefully. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us.

Required Documents:

If your parent(s) was/were furloughed, terminated, or laid off, you will be asked to submit:

  • A statement thoroughly explaining the circumstances
  • The last two pay stubs
  • A letter from the company indicating they were furloughed/terminated/laid off
  • Documentation showing the amount of unemployment payments your parents are receiving
  • An estimate of the income earned for 2020, including work, unemployment payments, and the $600 weekly supplemental payment.
  • (If furloughed) The date when your parent(s) is/are expected to be reemployed at their job, or the date they became reemployed
  • (If terminated/laid off and reemployed at a new job) The date they became reemployed and their most recent pay stub

If your parent(s) was/were self-employed, you will be asked to submit:

  • A statement thoroughly explaining the circumstances. If your business is cyclical, please mention this (e.g. a flower shop where 30% of revenue occurs during Valentine’s Day)
  • A 2019 tax return showing the business’ income before the COVID-19 pandemic
  • An estimate of the projected income for the remaining year, including supporting documentation for these estimates (e.g. Profit and Loss statement).

Special Circumstance Appeal Webinar

"Special Circumstance Appeal" Video Transcript