Unique circumstances can influence income for students and/or families and have an impact on their ability to pay for college. These circumstances may not be evident on the FAFSA, or circumstances may have changed since the FAFSA was submitted. When these situations arise, SEU can review a student’s aid eligibility based on current circumstances using a process called Professional Judgment.
Students are able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. This form uses tax information from two years prior to determine the amount of federal grants and loans students can receive for the upcoming school year; however, the FAFSA does not currently provide an option to note special circumstances that may affect a student’s ability to pay for college.
Professional judgment is an appeals process through which students can request a review of their eligibility for federal aid. If you can document a significant change in your family’s finances — or believe there are special circumstances that were not considered when you initially completed the FAFSA — we recommend that you submit a request to review your special circumstances (please see How to submit a professional judgment request, below). SEU’s Student Financial Services team evaluates these requests on a case-by-case basis, and submitting an appeal does not guarantee an adjustment or increase to your financial aid eligibility.
Professional judgment requests can be made by FAFSA applicants who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents who have special or unusual circumstances as indicated below.
Significant changes in income may merit a review of your financial aid eligibility. Please review the information below to determine if you have an eligible reason for a Professional judgment Request:
Documenting a Special Circumstance
Examples of documents we may request:
Parent information is required for the FAFSA for most students who are under the age of 24. In certain situations, students may submit an appeal to request removal of parent information and income. This request can only be approved in certain limited and exceptional circumstances where parents are unable to be contacted or contact poses a risk to the student. The following are examples of unusual circumstances where parent information can be removed or excluded from the FAFSA:
Unusual circumstances do not include:
Examples of documents we may request (in addition to a signed, dated statement providing a complete history of your relationship with your parents, including specific dates of events that caused you to separate from them):
SEU will apply the full flexibility of the law and presume a student with an unusual circumstance is independent in subsequent years unless the student informs SFS their situation has changed or we have conflicting information.
All undergraduate students should contact a counselor from Student Financial Services (SFS) to discuss the process for determining eligibility and the next steps for the professional judgement process. If approved, the SFS counselor will send the student a professional judgement request form for completion. The form asks you to indicate the major changes you experienced and may require supporting documentation, such as tax information and other pieces as needed. You should complete this application as soon as possible because the process could take multiple weeks to complete.
*Dependent students who provided parental information on the FAFSA are required to have one parent’s signature on the signature page once all documentation has been submitted.
To request a review of your dependency status (unusual circumstances), please contact SEU Student Financial Services for next steps.
After all required documents are received, SEU will conduct a preliminary review to ensure the submission is accurate and complete. You will be notified via email if there are any questions or if any additional documentation is required. Once the submission is verified as complete, Student Financial Services will review for final determination and contact you with the results.
While there is no appeal deadline, SEU recommends that appeal requests are submitted at least two weeks prior to the start of a semester. Appeals will not be considered once a student ceases enrollment.
Visit the website Finaid. This site is currently the most comprehensive source of student financial aid information. You will find breakdowns for better understanding professional judgement, the FAFSA, and more.
You can reach out to Student Financial Services with any questions by virtual appointment, email, or phone.
SFS Office Hours: Monday – Friday | 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET
Note: Sending an email or setting up a virtual appointment is recommended for beginning this process.