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Dependency Override due to Unusual Circumstances

Most students entering Pepperdine are considered financially dependent on their parents for financial aid purposes. If you’re a dependent student, it doesn’t mean your parents are required to pay anything toward your education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner. This means your parent(s) must provide their financial information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, we recognize that you may face challenging family circumstances and need to request reconsideration of your dependency status. This review is performed on a case-by-case basis for students with unusual circumstances when conditions exist that would prevent you from gaining access to parent information. The decision to approve or deny a dependency override is made by the Office of Financial Assistance, not the U.S. Department of Education, and is not appealable to an outside entity.

The following are examples of unusual circumstances that may be considered for a dependency override:

  • Abusive family environment (physical, emotional, sexual, substance abuse by a parent, etc.)
  • Documented abandonment and/or estrangement by parents
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • Parental mental incapacity
  • Parents cannot be located
  • Parents are deceased

Federal guidelines stipulate the following circumstances would not be considered for a dependency override:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or verification documents
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates self-sufficiency (has a job, pays their bills, does not live with parents, etc.)


Documentation that the Office of Financial Assistance may request must substantiate the special or unusual circumstances of an individual student and may include, but is not limited to:

  • Submission of a court order or official federal or state documentation that the student or the student's parents or legal guardians are incarcerated in any federal or state penal institution;
  • A written statement, which confirms the specific unusual circumstances with:
    • A child welfare agency authorized by a state or county,
    • A tribal welfare authority or agency,
    • An independent living case worker, such as a case worker who supports current and former foster youth with the transition to adulthood, or
    • A public or private agency, facility, or program servicing the victims of abuse, neglect, assault, or violence, which may include domestic violence;
    • A written statement from an attorney, a guardian ad litem, or a court-appointed special advocate, or a person serving in a similar capacity that confirms the specific unusual circumstances and documents the person's relationship to the student;
    • A written statement from a TRIO or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR-UP) representative, which confirms the specific unusual circumstances and documents the representative's relationship to the student;
    • In the absence of documentation described here, other documentation the financial aid administrator determines is adequate to confirm the unusual circumstances; or
    • Supplementary information, as necessary, about the financial status or personal circumstances of eligible applicants as it relates to the unusual circumstances based on which the applicant is requesting an adjustment.



In order for the office to review your request the following must be completed:

  1. 2024-2025 FAFSA submitted to Pepperdine (school code 001264)
  2. A personal statement detailing the unusual circumstances that you believe warrant a review of your dependency status. An emailed statement will not be accepted. Be sure to include the following:
    1. The nature and timeline of your relationship with both your parents
    2. The location of both parents AND when you last had contact with them
    3. Why you cannot obtain information and/or support from your parents
  3. At least three notarized letters (on letterhead) from professionals who personally know you and your situation and who can verify your circumstances. 
    1. Please note the following:
      1. Letters must be from a guidance counselor, physician, social worker, licensed therapist, clergyperson, or other individual who has been involved in the circumstances in a professional capacity.
      2. The individuals submitting letters cannot be related to the student, nor can they reside at the same address. All letters must be notarized, signed, and include a telephone and address where the individual can be reached for follow-up questions.
    2. What information must be included in the third-party professional letter?
      1. The person writing the letter must explain how they know the student and the extraordinary circumstances that prohibit them from providing parental information on the financial aid application. The following is a list of information that should be included in the letter:
        1. How long has the third party known the student?
        2. What are the extenuating circumstances that prevent the student from filing the FAFSA with a parent?
        3. When was the last time the student lived with and/or received financial support from a parent?
        4. When was the last time the student had contact with each parent?
        5. The whereabouts of each biological parent (even if parents are separated). If the whereabouts of one or both parents are unknown, explain when and how this came to be.
        6. How has the student provided for himself or herself without parental support?
  4. If you are submitting the Dependency Override form for Fall, the form and all required documents must be submitted by October 15th.
  5. If you are submitting the Dependency Override form for Spring, the form and all required documents must be submitted by February 15th.


Your request must be submitted using the Dependency Override Request Form. This can be submitted to our office via Etrieve (Pepperdine’s form/imaging system). Once all required documents are submitted the review will typically take 2-4 weeks from that date. During peak processing times the request may take longer, but no more than 60 days from the completed file date or from the date the student enrolls, whichever is later.