FAFSA Dependency Status

You will need to know if you must list yourself as a FAFSA independent or dependent student before you begin to fill out an application.

It is essential that you learn of your dependency status since it will determine whose information, either yours or your parents, you must list on your FAFSA form. If you are unsure of your dependency status, then the questions on the official FAFSA form will determine which dependency status you will need to use.

If you are a FAFSA independent student, then you will need to report your information on the FAFSA application. However, if you are married, then you must also include your spouse’s information. If you are a dependent student, then you will need to report you and your parent’s information. If you fill out the wrong information, your form may be inaccurate and can cause you not to receive the amount of aid that you deserve.

What are the two FAFSA dependency statuses?

It is important that you know before you fill out a FAFSA application that federal student aid programs are based on the notion that you and your parents are primarily responsible for paying for your education. Therefore, when you fill out a FAFSA application, you will either list your dependency status as either dependent or independent.

  • A dependent student has the support of parents, meaning that you and your parent’s information will be assessed to determine your family’s financial situation. However, your parents are not required to put any amount towards your education.
  • An independent student does not have the support of parents, meaning that only your FAFSA tax information will be assessed to determine your financial situation.

Note: According to information about FAFSA and divorced parents, the custodial parent, or the parent you primary live with, should complete the FAFSA application.

How to Determine a FAFSA Dependency Status

You will need to determine your FAFSA dependency status before you can start an application. To do so, you will need to answer specific questions. Since questions change slightly every year, you will need to make sure that you get the application for the year in which you are applying. However, questions that you can expect to answer include:

  • Were you born after a specific date?
  • As of today, are you married?
  • Do you have, or will you have, children who receive more than half of their support from you during a specific time?
  • Are you an emancipated minor, or does someone other than a parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you?
  • Currently, are you serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces besides training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
  • Do you have dependents who are not children or a spouse who lives with you and receives at least half of their support from you?

If you answered “Yes” to one or more question, then you are considered an independent student, and you do not need to provide information about your parents on your FAFSA form. However, if you answered “No” to one or more question, then you are considered to be a dependent student, and you will need to provide information about your parents on your FAFSA form.

Related Article: FAFSA Deadlines

Now that you know your dependency status, you may want to know if independent students get more financial aid than dependent students. Typically, a FAFSA independent student with no income qualifies for more aid.

Which parent should I list on my FAFSA form?

If you are a dependent student, you may be wondering which parent you should use on your FAFSA application.

First, you must know that you need to provide information about your legal parents. According to FAFSA guidelines, legal parents include biological or adoptive parents, or parents as determined by the state, such as the parents that are listed on your birth certificate.

Next, if your legal parents are currently married to each other, or they are not married to each other, but they live together, then you will need to report information about both parents on your FAFSA form. However, if a stepparent is currently married to one of your legal parents, then you will also need to provide his or her information.

Since not every family can be defined easily, you can use tools through the FAFSA website that will help determine which parents, or parent, you should include on your FAFSA form.

How to Add Parental Information If You Are Estranged

If you are not filling as an independent on FAFSA, but you do not have any contact with your family or your parents are not going to help you pay for college, then you may be wondering what to do. If you do not know where your parents live, or you left home due to abuse, you will need to fill out the FAFSA form and then get in touch with the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. From there, a financial aid staff member will let you how to proceed.

Note: If you do not live with your parents or they are not claiming you on their tax forms, you will not be considered an independent student for purposes of applying for FAFSA.

My parents refuse to provide their personal information. What do I do?

Regardless of the FAFSA independent age, you are not considered independent of your parents simply because they refuse to help you with the FAFSA form. Furthermore, if you fail to provide the information about your parents on your FAFSA form, your application will be “rejected,” and you potentially might not be able to receive federal student aid. Depending on the financial aid office at your college, the most you may be able to get is an unsubsidized loan. However, the FAFSA instructions will further explain what to do should you find yourself in this position.

Related Article: FAFSA Information for Parents

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