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Unusual Circumstances

Dependency Override Requests

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) identifies thirteen criteria under which an individual is considered an independent student. If a student meets one of the thirteen criteria on the FAFSA, the student is considered independent for financial aid purposes and is not required to report financial and demographic information for his or her parents.

Financial aid administrators have the authority to determine that a student who would otherwise be considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes, but cannot provide parental data on the FAFSA due to an acceptable unusual circumstance, be evaluated for a potential dependency override.

Documentation is a critical aspect of the dependency override process. The documentation must include the reason for the determination and must support the decision. In almost all cases, except for the student’s written statement and the financial aid administrator’s notes, the documentation must originate from a third party with first-hand long-term knowledge of the unusual circumstance. The third party confirming the student’s unusual circumstance could include counselors or teachers, clergy, community groups, government agencies, medical personnel, courts, police reports or prison administrators.

The US Department of Education has given guidance regarding situations that do and do not qualify as unusual circumstances.

The following do not qualify as unusual circumstances and therefore do not merit a dependency override, either alone or in combination:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education;
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the application or for verification;
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  • Parents do not approve of the student’s lifestyle;
  • Student does not approve of a parent’s household rules, restrictions;
  • Parents gave custody of the student to a friend/relative to allow the student to move to another state/country, attend a better school, etc. and the student still has contact with the parent(s).
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

The following would qualify as unusual circumstances for federal financial aid purposes and would merit a review for a potential dependency override request:

  • An abusive family environment (e.g., sexual, physical, or mental abuse or other forms of domestic violence);
  • Abandonment by parents;
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents;
  • Parents lacking the physical or mental capacity to raise the child;
  • Parents whereabouts are unknown or parents cannot be located;
  • An unsuitable household (e.g., child removed from the household and placed in foster care).

In accordance with HESAA memorandum 12:24, dated May 11, 2023, please note that the NJ Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) establishes their own criteria for dependency override evaluations. State aid overrides must be made on the basis of some other unusual circumstance such as:

  • Abandonment by parents;
  • An abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety;
  • Student is unable to locate his/her parents; or
  • Parent(s) removed from New Jersey by law.

Therefore, there may be circumstances where a student is eligible for a dependency override for federal aid but does not qualify or meet an override for State aid.

At The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) students that are petitioning for a dependency override must complete the form below, collect the appropriate documentation listed on the form and make an appointment with one of the financial aid administrator for a review.


Please note that students who cannot provide acceptable third party documentation will not be considered for a dependency override and therefore the only financial aid they can receive is an unsubsidized federal loan.

Please allow 2-4 weeks for a dependency override review once all the documents have been submitted.


Office of Financial Aid
Green Hall, Room 101
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
2000 Pennington Rd.
Ewing, NJ 08628
Tel. 609.771.2211
Fax. 609.637.5154

Office Hours: 8:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Monday through Friday

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