Your dependency status determines whose information you must report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- If you’re a dependent student, you will report your and your parents’ information.
- If you’re an independent student, you will report your own information (and, if married, your spouse’s).
The federal student financial aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily your and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. Because a dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, the parents’ information has to be assessed along with the student’s, in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength. If you’re a dependent student, it doesn’t mean your parents are required to pay anything toward your education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner.
Your answers to questions on the FAFSA determine whether you are considered a dependent or independent student. For the 2013-14 school year, a student is considered independent only if he or she can answer "yes" to any one of the following questions:
- Were you born before January 1, 1990?
- As of today, are you married? (Also answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.)
- At the beginning of the 2013–2014 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, graduate certificate, etc.)?
- 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?
- Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014?
- Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2014?
- At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
- Are you or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
- Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2012, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2012, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2012, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
A student who answers "yes" to any one of the questions above is independent and must complete only the student sections of the FAFSA. The Financial Aid Office will need to verify this status with official documentation; therefore independent students should be prepared for this request.
Please Note: Not living with parents or not being claimed by them on tax forms unfortunately does not make you an independent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid.
All other students must file the FAFSA as a dependent student and report their parent(s)’ information. When reporting parental information on the FAFSA, here are some guidelines to help:
- If your parents are living with and married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
- If your parents are living together and are not married but meet the criteria in your state for a common-law marriage, answer the questions about both of them. If your state does not consider them to be married, fill out the parent information as if they are divorced. (See below.)
- If your parent is widowed or single, answer the questions about that parent. If your widowed parent is remarried as of the day you sign the FAFSA, answer the questions about that parent and the person whom your parent married (your stepparent).
- If your parents are divorced or separated, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If this parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions on the FAFSA about that parent and the person whom your parent married (your stepparent). If you lived the same amount of time with each divorced parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent 12 months that you actually received support from a parent.
- The following people are not your parents unless they have legally adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.