When you submit the FAFSA, your answers to multiple questions on the application will determine your dependency status which in turn determines whose information you must report on your FAFSA.
And this may affect the amount of financial aid for which you’re eligible. In most cases, an independent student will qualify for more financial aid than a dependent student.
If you’re a dependent student, you will report your parents’ financial information, income and assets, along with your own.1 A parent must also sign the FAFSA.
If you’re an independent student, you will report your own information — and, if you’re married, your spouse’s.
How do I know if I am an independent or dependent student?
If you can answer NO to all of the following questions, you are considered a dependent student:
|Are you 24 year of age or older?|
|Are you married?|
|Do you have any dependents?2|
|Are you in the military?|
|Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?|
|Are you homeless or at risk of homelessness?3|
If you can answer YES to any of the questions above, you are considered an independent student and information about your parents is NOT required on the FAFSA.
Tips for Filing as an Independent Student
If you do qualify as an independent student, follow these tips:4
- Be sure to include yourself when you complete the section that asks for the number of people in your household. As error in household size can yield as much as a $1,700 difference in the EFC.5
- Filing as an independent student doesn’t always mean that you can leave the parent section of the FAFSA blank. For example, graduate health profession students may be required to provide parental data even if they are independent.
- When filing as an independent, your school may verify your dependency status. So have your documentation ready to avoid delays.
Can I change my FAFSA from dependent to independent?
Changing your dependency status is not easy, but there is a process in place for those with legitimate need based on their circumstances.
If you have a special circumstance that you feel warrants a change in your dependency status, you may request for a status change through the financial aid administrator at your school.
You start by filing a Dependency Review Form explaining your situation but the final decision rests with the financial aid administrator at your school.
- If your parents are separated or divorced, use the information of the parent whom you lived with the most during the past 12 months or failing that, the parent who provided you with the most support. [↩]
- A dependent child does not have to live with you, so long as the child receives more than half of his/her support from you. [↩]
- Since 2013, the definition of an “independent student” will be expanded to include an unaccompanied youth who is either homeless or at risk of homelessness. [↩]
- Fastweb, Federal Financial Aid and the Independent Student [↩]
- Edvisors, Impact of Income and Assets on the EFC [↩]