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Request for Reconsideration – MD Students

What are Special Circumstances?

“Special circumstances” refers to financial situations that may lead to a financial aid adjustment. This type of adjustment is called a Request for Professional Judgment. The Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) may use professional judgment on a case-by-case basis to adjust a student’s cost of attendance. The reason for the adjustment must be adequately documented and must be related to special circumstances that differentiate the student. OSFA also will review requests for reconsideration of need-based financial aid. For either type of special circumstance, please email to explain your situation.

The Cost of Attendance (COA) is an estimate of the total amount of your educational expenses for the period of enrollment during the Academic Year and is reflected on your financial aid Award. The COA is based on your enrollment status and level, your program of study, and whether you live on or off campus while attending the University. Your assigned Fall & Spring COA initially assumes full-time enrollment and includes the following items:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Books, Course Materials, Supplies, & Equipment
  • Room
  • Board
  • Transportation
  • Miscellaneous Living Expenses

Federal regulations permit the Vanderbilt University Office of Financial Aid, on a case-by-case basis and with adequate documentation, to increase the COA for educational-related expenses incurred during the current academic year. Such exceptions or adjustments, known as “Special Circumstances” or “Professional Judgment”, are considered on a case-by-case basis based on supporting documentation of your circumstances. Whether any adjustments are made is at the sole discretion of the OSFA and cannot be appealed beyond OSFA.

Students may request an increase to their Financial Aid COA by submitting a formal appeal. If approved, the increase typically allows the student to borrow additional loan funds, subject to annual loan limits and/or credit approval (for PLUS or private loans).

Because COA increases must typically be determined after an expense is incurred, students may wish to contact the OSFA and determine in advance whether a cost would be approved prior to incurring that cost.

Below are the allowable expenses for which an increase to the Financial Aid Cost of Attendance may be appealed:


Commuting Expenses

Students who are required to commute a significant distance for enrolled classes, related non-classwork, required experiential learning site, or internships can submit a request to OSFA. A student must provide documentation using a recognized mapping website of roundtrip mileage to and from Vanderbilt University, or similar documentation of such costs. A letter from the student’s advisor or supervisor is required with dates of travel and location if the request is related to non-classwork, required experiential learning site, or an internship. Purchase of a vehicle, auto loan payments, insurance, license, registration, and general car maintenance cannot and will not be considered.

Dependent Care Expenses

In calculating a student’s COA, federal regulations permit OSFA to include an allowance based on expenses incurred for dependent care. The period of time for which the dependent care expenses are incurred must be directly related to the time needed for students to pursue their education. The dependent must have been included in the student’s number in household on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Disability-Related Expenses

Students with disability-related expenses may contact OSFA to have such expenses considered. Disability-related expenses include but are not limited to personal assistance, equipment, and supplies. OSFA may potentially include disability expenses in the COA that are not provided by other assisting agencies. OSFA may consult with the Vanderbilt University Disability Resource Center and/or other sources to confirm the average cost of such expenses. Documentation of actual expenses may be necessary.

Medical Expenses

OSFA generally does not consider COA increases for medical expenses as there is already an allowance for them built into the standard cost. Typically, medical expenses are part of the need-analysis calculation on the FAFSA. In the event a student has an extenuating circumstance related to medical expenses, the student should contact OSFA to determine if the costs can be considered and what documentation is required. OSFA will not increase the COA for co-pays or any portion of an elective procedure.

Other Costs

Students who incur education-related expenses not listed above should contact OSFA directly for additional information.


Example items NOT eligible for COA increases:

  • Auto purchase or payments
  • Auto repairs and routine maintenance
  • Uber, Lyft, taxicab, or rideshare services to and from campus
  • Moving expenses and security deposits
  • Costs incurred outside of the current academic year
  • Costs incurred by a family member or other person, including a spouse or roommate’s portion of rent, mortgage, or daycare
  • Child support and other such child care expenses (other than daycare)
  • Legal fees, bail, traffic tickets, parking tickets, or fines
  • Veterinary costs, unless for a service animal
  • Sorority or fraternity dues
  • Costs and fees associated with bankruptcies, foreclosures or debt collections
  • Consumer debt such as credit cards, car payments, mortgages and other loans
  • Payments on back taxes owed to the IRS or state department of revenue

Your need-based student financial aid review represents the results of a detailed analysis and careful evaluation of the application information that you have provided to this office by filing the CSS Profile and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Vanderbilt is committed to the equitable treatment, which incorporates an evaluation of long-term capacity to pay, of all students and their families who are applying for need-based student financial aid. We additionally adhere to a systematic methodology for establishing an appropriate expected contribution from each applicant and his/her family when determining a financial aid award. We are thus unable to make student financial aid offer adjustments that are not consistent with the standard methodological principles and practices that we use for all families.

Special circumstances refer to financial situations that may lead to a financial aid adjustment. We do realize that errors could have been made in your reporting of information, that information requested on your application forms may have been omitted by you, or that significant changes (particularly changes with financial impact) in your family’s circumstances may have occurred since you filed the CSS Profile and FAFSA. Reconsideration of your financial aid eligibility can be given under such special circumstances, and if you have not already notified us of such errors, omissions, or significant changes, please do so at this time. Examples might include the following circumstances:

  • CSS Profile information reported erroneously or omitted.
  • Total loss of employment of either parent/stepparent for at least 10 weeks.
  • Disability or death of a parent/stepparent.
  • Parents’/stepparents’ divorce or remarriage.
  • Change in your family/household size or a change in the number of college students in your family/household during the upcoming academic year.
  • Extraordinary medical/dental or exceptionally high non-consumer expenses for which no reimbursement will be received and which will require direct out-of-pocket payment(s).

As stated above, it is not possible to give reconsideration of your need-based financial aid eligibility based on factors that are not consistent with our standard policies and procedures used in determining eligibility/need and awarding financial aid for all families. Examples of such factors that will not be considered including the following situations:

  • Aid offers from other colleges and universities, whether those offers are based on need or merit/honor.
  • Meritorious achievements and scholastic abilities/accomplishments of the student.
  • Discretionary spending patterns or chosen lifestyle of the parent(s) and/or student.
  • Consumer indebtedness (past or present) of the family.
  • Parent refusal to provide information on the CSS Profile.
  • Parent refusal to provide financial support.
  • Student being financially self-sufficient.

Any request for reconsideration must be submitted in writing with all documentation attached. Incomplete information and telephone requests will not be acted upon. Examples of documentation might include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following information:

  • A letter, signed by at least the student, identifying the specific PROFILE/FAFSA errors/omissions and providing the corrected data/information.
  • A letter from an employer certifying/documenting termination of a parent’s and/or student’s employment and explaining provisions for any severance pay or other relevant termination benefits.
  • Itemization of the recently unemployed parent’s and/or student’s calendar year income. This itemization should include all wages/earnings from January 1 up through the date that employment ended, any special compensation/payments other than regular earnings received at termination, unemployment compensation which will be received during the remainder of the calendar year, and any other earnings or other sources of income which that parent expects to receive during the remainder of the calendar year.
  • A letter from an appropriate medical authority providing relevant details of a disability.
  • Detailed estimates of a family’s current year income from all sources (itemized), both taxable and non-taxable.
  • Copies of relevant marriage, legal separation, or divorce documents.
  • Copies of bills or statements of account which support or reflect any exceptionally high medical, dental, or relevant non-consumer out-of-pocket expenses incurred during the most recently completed calendar year or thus far during the current calendar year.
  • Copies of prior calendar year federal tax returns with all specific attachments/schedules.
  • Copies of all pages/parts of trust documents.
  • Written notification of a parent’s death.
  • Any documents which explain or support the condition (as stated on the reverse side) on which your request for reconsideration is based, and which provide specific information and relevant data about the family’s circumstances now being reported.