Federal Student Financial Aid

FAFSA Dependent and Independent Students

Looking for federal student financial aid information for FAFSA on the web? Let us guide you through the college financial aid application process.

Last updated on June 20, 2024 by College Financial Aid Advice.

One very important question is are you a dependent or independent student for college financial aid purposes? This is not the same as being a dependent for income tax purposes, so it gets confusing.

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.

Are You a Dependent or Independent Student?

Federal Student Financial Aid
Even if you are 23 years old and your parents do not provide you any financial support, you may still be considered a dependent student for college financial aid purposes!

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 criteria used to determine if you are an independent or dependent student.

If based upon any of these questions, you are considered a dependent student for college financial aid purposes, 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.

FAFSA Questions - Dependent or Independent Student

Note: These are the criteria for the 2024 – 2025 FAFSA. These are the criteria that would make you an independent student.

1. The student was born prior to the year 2021. (e.g. age 24 or older on January 1, 2024.

2. The student's current marital status is married (not separated) or remarried.

3. The student's college grade level in 2024–25 will be college graduate, professional or beyond.

4. The student is currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.

5. The student is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

6. The student has children or other people, excluding your spouse, who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2024, and June 30, 2025.

7. The student, since he/she turned age 13, had both parents deceased, was in foster care or was a dependent or ward of the court.

8. As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, the student was 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.)

9. The student is or was in a legal guardianship with someone other than their parent or stepparent, as determined by a court in their state of residence.

10. At any time on or after July 1, 2023, the student was unaccompanied and either (1) homeless or (2) self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.

If any of these situations apply to the student, 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.

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