FAFSA Tutorial Step #4: Dependency Status

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For the FAFSA you are either considered to be a dependent or independent student. Your dependency status is a classification used specifically for the FAFSA. If you are considered a dependent student you will have to provide your parental demographic and financial information on your FAFSA application. Independent students, you will provide your own financial information, and if married, your spouse’s. If you are considered an independent student, and married, you will need to include your spouse’s financial information on your FAFSA application. This classification will also determine how much financial aid you are eligible for.

FAFSA dependency checklist

FAFSA Dependency Status vs. IRS Dependents

Dependency status for the FAFSA is not the same as being considered a dependent student on your parent’s taxes. These two classifications are completely separate and are not related at all.

It doesn’t matter if your parents claim you as a dependent on their federal tax return. Being a dependent on a tax return doesn’t affect your dependency status on the FAFSA.

The opposite is also true. Being a dependent on the FAFSA doesn’t affect your dependency status on your parent’s tax return.

You could be financial self-sufficient, file your own tax return, live on your own, but still be considered a dependent student on the FAFSA.

Dependency Status, Dependency Overrides, and Professional Judgment

Dependency Status checklist, if you checked off at least one box, you are considered an independent student. If you didn’t check off any box, you are considered a dependent student.

However, if you are unable to provide parental information, you should indicate that on your FAFSA.

FAFSA Dependent Student Screenshot

If you are considered a dependent student and you have unusual circumstances (usually extreme), you may be able to request a dependency override to receive independent student status. An important note, unusual circumstances are discretionary and granted on a case-by-case basis. Contact your financial aid administrator to find out if you qualify.

Some examples of unusual circumstances can include:

  • Death of a parent
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • Parental drug use
  • Parental mental incapacity
  • Parent whereabouts unknown
  • Student voluntary and involuntary removal from parents' home due to abuse that threatens student's safety and/or health
  • Student abandonment by parents

If your parent refuses to provide parental information, and you do not have an unusual circumstance, you still have some options. You can choose to apply for Unsubsidized Loan Only federal financial aid. You will still need to contact your financial aid office about your options for a Professional Judgement for your situation.

FAFSA Unsubsidized Screenshot

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