Not sure if you are independent or dependent? Read our page about are You Dependent or Independent Student?
photo credit Celal Teber
If your mother or father is single or widowed, answer the FAFSA questions about that parent. If your widowed parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions about that parent and your stepparent.
What if my parents are divorced or separated?
If your parents are divorced or separated, answer the FAFSA questions about the parent you lived with the most during the past 12 months. If you lived with your parents equal amounts of time, answer the questions about the parent who provided the most financial support during the last 12 months or most recent year that you received support. If that parent is remarried as of today, answer the FAFSA parental financial questions about that parent and your stepparent.
Do I need to include my stepparent financial information on the FAFSA financial aid form?
It depends. Yes, if (1) Your mom or dad was widowed and now remarried (2) You live with that parent and step parent the most during the past 12 months or (3) If you lived equal amounts with both divorced or separated parents, you must report the one that provided the most financial support, which includes the step parent if that parent was remarried.
Does this mean if I live with my mom who makes very little money, I can get a full scholarship to a top private school, without worrying about my dad who is a multi-millionaire who disowns us?
Probably not, but like everything, it depends. Some private schools require a CSS Profile application from the non-custodial parent, in addition to the FAFSA. Of course if your GPA is 4.7, you are top of your high school class, captain of the debate team, who knows. Schools are much more likely to offer generous financial aid packages to deserving top students.
The biggest mistake people make is not applying. About 10% of subsidized loans go to students with family incomes over $100,000 per year.
What if one of my parents still refuses to cooperate and provide their financial information? Does that make me ineligible for financial aid?
You should submit the FAFSA financial aid form without that information, and follow up with the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend.
All students are eligible for unsubsidized Stafford federal student loans. There are also many scholarships that are not based upon financial need. For example, you may be a National Merit Scholar and receive a scholarship because of your outstanding scores on the PSAT test, not because of financial need. There are also many other merit based scholarships for college.
What if I can’t contact my parents for this information?
There are some very limited situations where you may also submit without information from your parents. For example, if your parents are incarcerated; if you have left home due to abusive family environment; or if you do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them. You should submit the FAFSA student loan application without the parent information, and follow up with the financial aid offices. There are many types of financial aid for college students, and they will work with you to provide the best financial aid package for your situation.
FAFSA Application - The 2017-18 FAFSA application is available now (starting October 1 2016).