Professional Judgements

Do you need to tell us something the FAFSA could not?

The FAFSA is a tool designed to estimate a family’s ability to pay for college. However, many students and/or families have circumstances that the FAFSA cannot capture in that snapshot.

A student may need their dependency status to be overridden or there may have been a change in the student’s or a dependent student’s family financial circumstances. Other students may have unusual educational expenses not accounted for in the Cost of Attendance (COA).

Students with special educational costs, dependency override needs, or changed financial circumstances may be able to benefit from a professional judgement appeal.

(Watch this video to learn more about special circumstances.)

Do you have a special circumstance? Chat with a Financial Aid Counselor!

Make an appointment to chat with one of our financial aid counselors. They will be able to help you explore your options and help you determine if an appeal might be right for you. This might also include looking for unutilized loan eligibility, exploring scholarship opportunities, or recommending private educational loans.

What qualifies as a special circumstance for professional judgement?

Circumstances that might qualify as a special circumstance include:

  • Parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, incarceration or institutionalization
  • Job loss or change in employment
  • One time income, such as a one-time withdrawal from a retirement account
  • Divorce or separation not reflected on the FAFSA
  • Death of a parent or spouse
  • Exceptional medical or dental expenses
  • Required elementary or secondary tuition costs
  • Change in student’s marital status after the completion of the FAFSA
  • Educational expenses not accounted for in the Cost of Attendance (CoA): i.e., exceptionally high rent, the purchase of a computer, medical insurance, supplies, travel for internship or coursework, etc.

Examples of what CANNOT be considered a special circumstance:

  • Dependent students who are self-sufficient and have an established, healthy relationship with parents
  • Dependent students whose parents do not claim the student on their tax return
  • Circumstances already accounted for on the FAFSA, such as living expenses
  • Consumer debt
  • Expenses already included in the Cost of Attendance (COA)
  • Noneducational expenses; i.e., expenses related to pets, vacations, or extracurricular activities
  • Sorority of fraternity dues

This is just a general list of some of the most commonly considered circumstances. If you do not see your circumstance listed, you should still make an appointment to talk with a counselor.

How to submit an appeal?

  1. Chat with your financial aid counselor to see if an appeal will benefit you
  2. Complete and submit the Professional Judgement Interest Form your financial aid counselor provides you
  3. Prepare your statement and gather all the necessary documentation. (The interest form will provide you with a list of the documents you will need.)
  4. An electronic request for your appeal paperwork will be added to AppalNet. You will complete an electronic form, provide your statement, and upload your documents through our secure online platform, StudentForms. (Your financial aid counselor will give you detailed instructions.)

Important notes:

  • Not all appeals result in additional aid. In some cases, changes do not make students eligible for more grants or additional loan amounts. In rare cases, students may lose grant eligibility. This is why it is important to provide your counselor with as much detailed, accurate information as possible before your appeal is added.
  • Not all appeals are approved. If you appeal, your appeal could be denied. This is a final decision and cannot be contested at a higher level. The Department of Education cannot overturn the committee’s decision.

Processing time:

  • Unless you are requesting a dependency override, you must complete verification - if you were selected for verification - before your appeal can be reviewed
  • Appeals will not be reviewed until all documentation is provided
  • Appeal decisions can take upwards of 6-8 weeks, especially during peak times. (If you need more time to cover billed costs, the Office of Student Accounts will provide an option for students to complete a Payment Deferral Agreement inside the Touchnet Billing and Payment Center once they are billed. By completing the Agreement you agree that, though you cannot pay by the deadline, you will satisfy current and future charges for the term.)
  • The committee may request additional information, so it is important to closely watch your App State email. You may also want to sign up for text messages through Student Forms.
  • You will be notified of the committee’s decision by email. If the appeal is approved, aid will be adjusted in 7-10 business days and you should allow at least another week for aid to disburse to your student account. If you would like additional loans, contact your financial aid counselor.