According to the U.S. Department of Education, most undergraduate students are considered dependent. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will determine your dependency status based on a number of questions. If you answer ‘no’ to all of the dependency questions on the FAFSA, you are considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes and must provide your parent information on the FAFSA.
If there are unusual circumstances where you cannot provide your parent information on the FAFSA, such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment, the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) may be able to perform a dependency override to make you an independent student for financial aid purposes. Students can submit an unusual circumstances, or dependency override, appeal to request to have their dependency status reviewed if they feel that their situation qualifies them to be considered an independent student. We cannot guarantee that the appeal will result in a change in dependency status.
Dependency appeals are approved in certain limited and exceptional cases. Each institution has their own qualifying circumstances in regard to granting dependency status. This means that receiving a dependency appeal approval from one institution may not result in an appeal approval at another Institution.
Please note: According to federal guidelines, the following situations are not considered “unusual circumstances”:
- The unwillingness and/or inability of your parents to financially support you.
- Living on your own and paying your own bills.
- Parents not claiming a student as a dependent on their income taxes.
If you believe that your unusual circumstances qualify you as an independent student and would like to have your dependency status reviewed, please follow the procedure below to submit an appeal.
1. First, you must notify our office of your appeal request and circumstances. To do so, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Attn: Unusual Circumstances Appeal Review Committee".
- 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.
- If you have not done so already, complete your FAFSA for the academic year you are appealing your dependency status.
- Additional Supporting Documents include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The completed and signed Dependency Appeal Form.
- A typed, signed and dated, one-page personal statement that addresses the items listed below. Be sure to provide specific dates for all events mentioned in your statement.
- Your relationship with your biological and/or legally adoptive parents. (Include their first and last names and when you last spoke with each of them.)
- Where you currently reside.
- Explanation of how you are financially supporting yourself while living apart from your parents.
- Two signed and dated letters from professionals (on their letterhead) documenting their first-hand knowledge of your unusual circumstance. Each letter must include the writer’s contact information, including their address and phone number.
- Examples of professionals include: clergy, counselors, social workers, police, physicians, etc.
- Letters should be detailed and refer to actual events—they should not be reiterations of events you have shared, but should reflect the writer’s direct knowledge.
- Police reports may, in some cases, substitute for one letter.
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 that appeal reviews will be completed within 3-4 weeks of receipt of all requested documentation. During peak processing times, the request may take longer to be reviewed, but no longer than 60 days from the date the above documentation has been received (or from the date the student enrolls, whichever is later).
- 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.
- Once processed, you will be notified of the final determination of your dependency status as well as an initial or revised financial aid offer if all other requirements to receive a financial aid offer have been satisfied
If your dependency 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. Approval of an appeal does not guarantee receipt of additional aid.
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/Unsubsidized Direct Loan), we will update your financial aid offer and send you an email to view your revised financial aid offer within your FinAid Portal.
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. You are responsible for all outstanding UMD bills and should make arrangements to ensure that your bill is paid by the due date.
Beginning with the 2023-24 award year, any student who is approved for a dependency override and granted independent status for financial aid due to unusual circumstances will continue to be independent for each subsequent award year at UMD unless the student informs us that their circumstances have changed, or we have conflicting information about the student’s independence status. Students granted independent status must still submit the FAFSA each year but will not need to take additional action to be considered an independent student each following year.
As outlined on the FAFSA, federal regulations define the criteria you must meet to be considered an independent student. If you do not meet any of the criteria, you can ask your school’s financial aid office to re-evaluate your status by submitting a dependency appeal. A dependency appeal is the process that a school uses to review your situation to determine if you are eligible to be considered as an independent student. Federal regulations give our office discretion, on a case-by-case basis and with adequate documentation, to make adjustments to the data on your FAFSA. This can only be done in certain limited and exceptional circumstances.
Undergraduate students who do not meet the criteria required to be considered an independent student but would like to have their status reviewed based on information provided about their circumstances.
If you have qualifying circumstances, you will be required to upload the requested appeal documents through your Financial Aid Portal. Please only upload the requested appeal documents.
After you provide all of the required documents, our Dependency Appeal Review Committee will review the documents and your FAFSA information. Based on this information, the committee will determine whether we can update your FAFSA. If we update your FAFSA based on the documents provided, we will send the updated FAFSA to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.
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. 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 but no lone than 60 days from the date the above documentation has been received (or from the date the student enrolls, whichever is later).
Not all dependency appeals will result in new or additional grants. Only appeals that resulted in a significant change to the FAFSA may result in additional/new grants. Based on your updated dependency classification, you will be considered for the Federal Pell Grant, the University of Maryland Grant (in-state students only), state grant (in-state students only), Direct Subsidized Loan and Federal Work-Study funds.
If your dependency status changes, and that results in Direct Subsidized and/or Direct Unsubsidized Loan eligibility, we will update your aid offer. Federal Direct Loan annual limits are set by the U.S. Department of Education and cannot be increased beyond the allowable amount.
Yes, you must pay your student bill by the due date while waiting for the outcome of your appeal.
Any student approved for a dependency override and granted independent status for financial aid due to unusual circumstances will continue to be independent for each subsequent award year at UMD unless the student informs us that their circumstances have changed or we have conflicting information about the student’s independence. Students granted independent status must still submit their FAFSA each year but will not need to take additional action to be considered an independent student each following year.