How to Write a Letter of Circumstance

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A letter of special circumstance is a letter that a student writes to a college or university when he cannot afford the tuition. It demonstrates that the circumstances keeping the family from paying tuition are out of the family's control. Once the school receives the letter, it will look further into the situation. If the school determines that your family's situation qualifies as a special circumstance, it will make arrangements so that you can go to school, regardless of the financial crisis. This might include an extended payment plan, a loan or a tuition waiver.

  • Visit your school's financial aid or admissions website before writing the letter. Each school requires a different process for submitting a letter of special circumstance. Your school's website will state if you need to provide additional documents or if you need to include information that other schools might not request.

  • Format the letter professionally. Type the date in the top-left corner of your word processing program on your computer. Drop down two lines and type the name and title of the person to whom you are writing. For example: Mary Jones, Director of Financial Aid. Drop down two lines and type the salutation.

  • Introduce the situation that is causing your special circumstance, such as the death of the family's major wage earner. Include a statement that your family has no control over this financial matter and that it causes undue hardship for your family if you must pay tuition.

  • Explain details to help the school determine whether or not the situation is a special circumstance. For example, if your father died, explain that he did not have life insurance and that your mom does not have a job.

  • Leave your contact information, including your phone number, at the bottom of the letter, below your name. Be sure to both type and sign your name. Include any other information that will help the school identify you, such as a student ID number.

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