So you are going to college, but you need financial aid. You may be an adult, over 18 and a parent yourself. Surely this means you are independent, free of your own parents? Not necessarily, at least not in terms of financial aid and FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. So what determines your dependency status and what does it mean to you?
There are a number of questions you must answer to determine if you are still a dependent according to FAFSA. Look at the following list.
- Were you 23 years old or older before January 1 of this year?
- Will you be working on a master’s or doctoral degree or certificate?
- Are you married?
- Are you a parent AND do your children receive more than half of their support directly from you?
- Do you have other dependents that live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?
- Are both of your parents deceased?
- Were you a ward of the court?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
- Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
If you are able to answer yes to any of these questions, even one, you are considered independent for the purposes of the FAFSA. If you answered no to all of them, you will be required to supply information about your parents and their financial standings on your application.
Even if you don’t live with your parents, if you fall into the dependent category, you will have to include your parents’ information. It doesn’t matter that they may no longer claim you as a dependent on their taxes. For the purposes of the FAFSA, taxable dependency is irrelevant.
The information is still required even if your parents don’t want to help you pay for college. It is used to determination the amount of financial aid you are eligible for.
There are some special circumstances which may qualify you as an independent even if you did answer no to all the questions. Some examples of those circumstances would include lack of contact with your parents, parental abuse, Parental substance abuse or parental mental illness. Another point to consider is that you may fair better as a dependent if you are providing support to your parents. These and other situations should be discussed with your financial aid office as they can guide you on how to proceed.