Special Circumstances

Professional Judgment

Financial Aid Administrators have the authority to take into consideration unique family circumstances not reflected on the application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  An aid administrator my use Professional Judgment (PJ) on a case-by-case basis to adjust the following:

  • Student's Cost of Attendance
  • FAFSA Data Elements used to calculate the Student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
  • Students Dependency Status​

PJ to Adjust Cost of Attendance based on extra charges for these items:

  • Course Fees, Books, or Supplies
  • Room and Board
  • Computer Purchase
  • Transportation
  • Dependent Care
  • Miscellaneous Expenses

Students requesting a PJ to adjust Cost of Attendance must provide the following documentation:

PJ to adjust FAFSA Data Elements:

  • Loss of income for student and/or spouse due to divorce, death, change or loss of employment or disability
  • Student’s change in marital status after original FAFSA was signed and submitted 
  • Loss of income for parent(s) due to divorce, death, change or loss of employment or disability 
  • Parent attending college at least half time in a degree seeking program
  • Bankruptcy (except Chapter 7 and 11)

Students requesting a PJ to adjust FAFSA Data Elements must provide the following documentation:

PJ to Change Dependency Status:

Students requesting a dependency override should make an appointment with the Financial Aid Director, either in person or by phone, and provide additional documentation as requested.

Dependency overrides will generally be performed for those students who meet one of the following criteria:

  • A student has been involuntarily removed from the parents’ home and support.
  • The student has resided with and been supported by someone other than their parents—the time will depend on the situation. Usually this applies to students who have “always” lived with a relative who was not a legal guardian.
  • The student is not receiving support from either parent, there is little to no communication with either parent and there has been an issue of abuse or abandonment that led to the alienation of the student from the parent.

The residency of the student or whether or not the parent has claimed the student as a dependent on their federal tax return is not a basis for appeal.

Students requesting an override of their dependency status must submit the following to Pratt Community College:

In subsequent years, in lieu of repeated documentation, if the dependency situation remains unchanged, the student must provide a written statement to that effect along with completing the Independent Status Appeal. New documentation will not be required.

Pratt Community College follows the federal guidelines which state that aid administrators cannot use professional judgment to consider a student independent solely on the basis of the students’ previous independent status, or because the student is “self supporting”. A dependency override may not be used in the case of parents who are unwilling to provide financial data or support.

The Financial Aid Director reserves the right to make exceptions to this policy in extreme situations.


Pratt Community College recommends using SwiftStudent to complete your Appeal.

SwiftStudent is the only free, digital resource that provides financial aid appeal letter templates for students.

Through SwiftStudent, students can learn about the financial aid appeal process, review eligibility requirements for making an appeal, and customize a financial aid appeal to start the conversation with your college financial aid office.

How much does it cost to use SwiftStudent?

FormSwift and the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation have committed to providing all SwiftStudent tools and content for free.

Will my school accept SwiftStudent letters?

It is always best to use the official application or form provided by your school, if there is one available.
(As a PCC student will be required to complete the form talked about above. Please click here for the Professional Judgment.)
Check out the SwiftStudent guidance to learn about your appeal options, then visit your school's financial aid website. Some schools have online forms, some schools have walk-in hours and others have appointment only options.

If your school does not offer an online form or you cannot reach out to the financial aid office during business hours, you can start the conversation by using one of the free SwiftStudent template letters, and submitting it to your financial aid office.

SwiftStudent will help you start the conversation with your financial aid office. If you submit a letter using the template that includes supporting documentation, some schools may consider your application complete. Others may need additional documents or information to make a decision. For many students, submitting a successful appeal can be a two-step process.

How do I submit financial aid appeals through SwiftStudent?

You can download your letter and email it with supporting documents to your financial aid office. You can print your letter and deliver it to your financial aid office with copies of your supporting documents.

Does SwiftStudent guarantee that students get additional financial aid?

No. While the SwiftStudent letters help students to share their stories with their schools, students must still assemble supporting documentation. As with any appeal or request, approval depends on the professional judgement of the financial aid officer. SwiftStudent does not guarantee approval for students; the purpose of the free site is to help students understand how the appeal process works and submit clear letters to their financial aid offices.

When will the financial aid office get back to me?

It may take the financial aid office some time to evaluate your request. Processing times vary from days to weeks. You should follow up with the financial aid office regularly and check your official school email address every day after submitting an appeal. Many schools will only communicate updates to your school email address.

Will my financial aid appeal get approved? What happens after I submit my appeal to the financial aid office?

There is no guarantee that your school will adjust your financial package; every student's situation is different, and policies vary by school. Your financial aid office may need additional documents or information to make a decision. Make sure to check your official school email address every day so that you don't miss a response from your financial aid office. You can also reach out to your financial aid office to check on the status of your request.

If your request is approved, the financial aid office will share how much more aid you can expect to receive, if any. If you are offered a loan, it's important to consider the type of loan and how the amount will help you reach educational goals.

If your request is denied, it doesn't mean you're out of options. Ask your financial aid office why the request was denied and what other community or institutional resources are available.

To learn more about how appeals work, click here.