Special Circumstances Appeal Process

Some students and their families experience special circumstances that affect the ability to pay for the cost of a college education. If the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) you submitted is no longer an accurate representation of your family’s current financial situation, the Office of Student Financial Aid will work with you to find the best options for your circumstances.

However, we cannot guarantee the appeal process will result in additional financial aid. Therefore, students must submit all bill payments by the stated due date. Submission of an appeal does not result in exemption from bill payments.

The University of Maryland recognizes the following as qualifying special circumstances for financial aid appeal:

  • Parent or student divorce.
  • Death of a parent or student's spouse.
  • Significant loss or reduction of income. 
  • Loss of benefits such as child support, unemployment, alimony, Social Security/disability or worker's compensation.
  • Unreimbursed medical and dental care expenses that exceed 10% of the household adjusted gross income. 
  • Student or family incurred and paid for additional expenses beyond the standard cost of attendance allowances for room, board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. 

If you meet one of the qualifying circumstances, please follow the procedure below to submit an appeal.

1) First, you must notify our office of your change in circumstances. To do so, you can email us at umdfinaid@umd.edu or call 301.314.8377 (TERP).

  • Upon receiving this notification, we will review your change in circumstance in addition to your completed FAFSA, your current financial aid offer and other financial aid and/or academic information as needed. You may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation.

2) Once our office has received all required documentation, your financial aid appeal will be presented to our Financial Aid Appeal Committee. The committee could request more supporting documents.

  • Please anticipate appeal reviews to be completed within three to four weeks from receipt of all requested documentation.
  • After the initial evaluation of your submitted documents, additional supporting documentation may be requested. If this is the case, the review will take longer to complete.

If your financial aid appeal results in changes to your FAFSA, our office will update the FAFSA information and submit the necessary changes to the U.S Department of Education.

If your financial aid appeal results in changes to your financial aid offer (such as eligibility for an increased or additional need-based grant, Federal Work-Study funds or Direct Subsidized Loan), we will update your financial aid offer and send you an email to view your revised financial aid offer within your My FinAid Portal. Should your financial aid appeal result in an increased need-based grant but does not cover your total educational cost, you or your parent(s) may need loans to cover the remaining costs. Loans are subject to eligibility.

If your financial aid appeal does not result in any changes, our office will notify you of this decision via email. Should you need further clarification, you can schedule an appointment with a financial aid counselor to review your financial aid appeal and discuss the types of aid available to you.

What is a financial aid special circumstances appeal?

When there are unusual situations or circumstances that impact your federal student aid eligibility, federal regulations give our office discretion, on a case-by-case basis and with adequate documentation, to make adjustments to the data on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that impact your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This allows us to gain a more accurate assessment of your family's ability to contribute to your cost of education.


Who is eligible to submit a special circumstances appeal?

Undergraduate students who, after submitting the FAFSA, had a significant reduction (10% or more) in their income may submit an appeal.

Undergraduate and graduate students with above average housing, food, technology and other expenses that are not included in our standard cost of attendance may submit an appeal to increase the standard cost of attendance items.


What special circumstances can be considered?

  • Significant reduction of income/loss of wages.
  • Loss of benefits such as child support, unemployment, alimony, social security/disability or worker's compensation.
  • Divorce or separation.
  • Death of a parent or spouse.
  • Unreimbursed medical and dental care expenses that exceed 10% of the household adjusted gross income.

Is there a tool I can use to estimate the anticipated change to my EFC based on my current household income or other information?

You can use the EFC calculator to estimate your updated EFC based on your most recent information. Since this is only an estimate, your actual updated EFC may be different from the estimate provided using the calculator.


How can I provide the required documents to support my special circumstances appeal?

If you have qualifying circumstances, you will be required to upload the requested appeal documents through your Financial Aid Portal. Please only upload requested appeal documents.


How is my special circumstances appeal reviewed?

After you provide all of the required documents, our Special Circumstances Appeal Review Committee will review the documents as well as your FAFSA information. Based on this information, the committee will determine whether we can update your FAFSA and EFC. If we update your FAFSA based on the documents provided, we will send the updated FAFSA and EFC to the U.S Department of Education for approval.


How long does it take to get a decision about my special circumstances appeal?

Once all of the required documents are provided, please allow 3-4 weeks for the review process and for a final determination to be provided.


Will I get grants if my special circumstances appeal is approved?

Not all special circumstances appeal will result in new or additional grants. Only appeals that resulted with significant change to the FAFSA will result in additional/new grants. Based on your updated EFC and residency status classification, you will be considered for Federal Pell Grant, University of Maryland Grant (in-state students only), state grant (in-state students only), Direct Subsidized Loan and Federal Work Study funds.


Will I get more federal loans if my special circumstances appeal is approved?

If your EFC number changes and that results in Direct Subsidized Loan eligibility, we will update your aid offer and offer you the Direct Subsidized Loan. Federal Direct Loan annual limits are set by the U.S Department of Education and cannot be increased beyond the allowable amount.


Do I still need to pay my student bill while waiting for the outcome of my special circumstances appeal?

Yes, you are required to pay your student bill by the due date while you are waiting for the outcome of your special circumstances appeal.


Can I submit a special circumstances appeal due to changes in the assets (cash, investment) amounts I reported in my FAFSA?

Already reported asset information can not be updated after the FAFSA filing date.


Do I have to submit a special circumstance appeal each year if my appeal was approved previously?

In order to have your special circumstances considered for the following academic year(s), students must submit a special circumstance appeal for each applicable academic year. Appeals approved from the previous academic year will not be considered for the future academic year(s).


How do I submit a special circumstance appeal?

You must notify our office of your change in circumstances. To do so, you can email us at umdfinaid@umd.edu or call 301.314.8377 (TERP).

Upon receiving this notification, we will review your change in circumstance in addition to your completed FAFSA, your current financial aid offer and other financial aid and/or academic information as needed. You may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation.

Once we have received all of the required documentation, your financial aid appeal will be presented to the committee, which could request more supporting documentation.