Financial Aid

Special and Unusual Circumstances

We understand that a student’s situation may not be accurately reflected in the information used to establish a financial aid offer. In these cases, financial aid administrators are given the authority to adjust elements used to calculate and determine student aid eligibility on a case-by-case basis. These unique situations are referred to as Special and Unusual Circumstances.

On this page:

Special Circumstances

Special Circumstances is used to address substantial changes to information collected on the FAFSA or components reflected in the Cost of Attendance.

Some examples of Special Circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • Changes in employment status or income;
  • Divorce or separation of a dependent student’s parent or of an independent student;
  • Extraordinary expenses such as dependent child care, airfare, a one-time computer purchase, etc.

If you would like to request a re-evaluation based on your Special Circumstance, complete and submit one of the following forms along with supporting documents if applicable.

2023-2024 Academic Year

2024-2025 Academic Year

Unusual Circumstances

Unusual Circumstance (Dependency Override) is used to address a student’s dependency status based on a unique situation in which the student is unable to contact parents or where contact with parents poses a risk to such student. This would enable an otherwise dependent student to apply for financial aid without parent information. *Please note that we may be able to use a dependency override determination made by a financial aid administrator at another institution. Simply submit a copy of your determination letter for review.

Some examples of Unusual Circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • Parental abandonment or estrangement;
  • Abuse or endangerment caused by parents;
  • Legally granted refugee or asylum status;
  • Human trafficking.

Unusual Circumstances do not include:

  • Parents refusal to contribute to the student’s education.
  • Parents refusal to provide information for the FAFSA or verification.
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

If you would like us to review your unusual circumstance to see if your situation warrants a dependency override, please provide the following documents to our office:

  1. A detailed personal statement explaining your unusual circumstance. You must include the reason you are unable to provide parent information on the FAFSA, the timeline of events that occurred, and the type/frequency of contact you have with your parents now.
  2. At least two letters of support from people (preferably from professionals such as school counselors, therapists, a clergy member, etc.) who can confirm or attest to your situation.
  3. Any supporting documents that are relevant to your situation such as court orders, police reports, etc.

Review Process

The Special and Unusual Circumstance review process typically takes 3-4 weeks from the date a completed request and all required documentation is received by the UH Hilo Financial Aid Office. During peak processing times, it could take longer but no more than 60 days to be reviewed. Please be aware that not all cases result in an increase to a student’s aid package.

If a student is granted a dependency override, this status will continue for each subsequent award year unless the student informs us that their circumstances have changed or we have conflicting information about the student’s independence. In the case where it is determined that the student does not warrant a dependency override, the student will only be eligible for dependent-level Direct Unsubsidized Loans unless they subsequently complete the FAFSA form as a dependent student by providing parental information.