FAFSA Tutorial Step #4: Dependency Status

Filing the FAFSA 2016-2017 Edition Cover Paperback
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The FAFSA asks a set of 13 questions to determine if a student is a dependent student or an independent student.

FAFSA Dependency Determination Questions

Why Does Dependency Status Matter?

Parent information is required on your FAFSA if you are a dependent student, but not if you are an independent student. (Some medical and law schools require parent information for independent students, so check with your school to find out.)

Your dependency status can affect the amount and types of financial aid you are eligible for.

In most cases, independent students will qualify for more financial aid.

But, if you are independent because you are married, you will have to include your spouse’s financial information on the FAFSA. This can sometimes result in less financial aid.

FAFSA Dependency Status vs. IRS Dependents

Dependency status on the FAFSA is different than dependency status on federal income tax returns.

It doesn’t matter if your parents claim you as a dependent (exemption) on their federal income tax return, or not. 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 parents’ tax return.

You could be financially self-sufficient and file your own federal income tax returns, but still be considered a dependent student on the FAFSA.

Dependency Status and Dependency Overrides

If you answer “no” to all 13 of these questions, you are considered a dependent student. It doesn’t matter if you’re financially self-sufficient and don’t live with your parents.

If you answer “yes” to at least one of the FAFSA dependency questions, you are considered an independent student.

If you are considered a dependent student and you have unusual circumstances, you can request a dependency override to receive independent student status. Contact your school’s financial aid administrator to find out if you qualify.

Here are some examples of unusual circumstances:

  • Death of a parent
  • Parent incarcerated
  • Parent location unknown
  • Student left home due to abuse

The 13 Dependency Status Questions

  1. Were you born before January 1, 1993?
  2. As of today, are you married?
  3. At the beginning of the 2016-2017 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.)?
  4. Do you now have or will you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you, between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017?
  5. 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, 2017?
  6. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
  7. Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
  8. 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?
  9. As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
  10. Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
  11. At any time on or after July 1, 2015, 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, 2015, 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, 2015, 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?