Many incoming college students wonder if they could claim they are an independent student, which would make them eligible for more student financial aid. Most students going into college are dependent students if they are under age 24, and at least one parent will need to provide parental financial information on the FAFSA.
Here's a synopsis from the FAFSA government website:
"For financial aid purposes, a student is considered "dependent" if he or she is under 24, unmarried, and has no legal dependents at the time the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is submitted. (Exceptions are made for veterans, wards of court, and other special circumstances.) If a student is considered dependent, then the income and the assets of the parent have to be reported on the FAFSA."
To verify if you are independent or dependent student, the FAFSA federal student loan application has some questions used to determine if you are an independent or dependent student. If you can truthfully answer yes to any of these questions, then you are considered an independent student for college financial aid purposes. If the answer to all of these questions are no, then you will most likely need to provide parental financial information on your FAFSA on the web application to qualify for federal student financial aid, as well as other types of college financial aid.
1. Were you born before January 1, 1998? (e.g. age 24 or older on January 1, 2021.
2.As of today, are you married? (Answer "Yes" if you are separated but not divorced. Also answer "Yes" if you are legally married in any jurisdiction as a same-sex couple, regardless of where you live or will attend school.) Note this question is about the student, not the parent!
3. At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, or graduate certificate, etc.)?
4. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training? (Note: answer “Yes” if you are currently serving in US Armed Forces or are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee who is on active duty for other than state or training purposes).
5. Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces? (Note: answer “Yes” if you are not a veteran now but will be by June 30, 2022. Also answer “Yes” if you were called to active duty for other than state or training purposes. You may not answer “Yes” if you received a dishonorable discharge.
6. Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022? Note this question is about the student, not the parent!
7. 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, 2022? Note this question is about the student, not the parent!
8. At anytime 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?
9. As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor? (Note: you must be able to provide a copy of the court papers and they must still be in effect, or in effect when you turned 18.)
10. Does someone other than your parent or step parent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence? (Note: you must be able to provide a copy of the court papers and they must still be in effect, or in effect when you turned 18.)
11. At any time on or after July 1, 2020, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
12. At any time on or after July 1, 2020, 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 or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless??
13. At any time on or after July 1, 2020, 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?
If you can truthfully answer "yes" to any question above, you are likely considered an independent student for financial aid purposes. This is not the same as being independent for income tax purposes. Regardless if you consider yourself an independent student or dependent student, the school will make the final determination and decide how much federal student financial aid, and other types of financial aid, that they will offer you. So learn about the options and how to maximize your financial aid package.
Learn more about FAFSA parental information that will be required, especially if your parents are divorced or other special circumstances.
FAFSA Application - The 2021-22 FAFSA application is available now