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FAFSA Dependency Status

For the FAFSA® you are either considered a dependent or independent student. Your dependency status is a classification used specifically for the FAFSA to determine how much financial aid you are eligible for. 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 you’re married, your spouse’s information is also required. This classification will also.

FAFSA Dependency Questions

The FAFSA will ask you a series of questions to determine your dependency status. The questions are pretty much ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Technically, there are 10 questions, but if you are completing your FAFSA online or through the mobile app, it will only ask you questions based on the information you provided up until that point. For example, you may not see a question asking you to confirm if you will be 24 years old or older by Jan. 1 of the school year for which you’re applying for financial aid. Based on your student demographic information, which includes your date of birth, the FAFSA can make that determination.

The questions you may see on the 2021-2022 FAFSA

  • Were you born before Jan. 1, 1998?
  • As of the day you’re completing the FAFSA, are you married? (This is a “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced)
  • At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, will you be working on a master’s degree or doctorate program (such as a MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, graduate certificate, etc.)?
  • Do you have, or will you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you, between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022?
  • Do you have dependents, other than your children or spouse, who will receive more than half of their support from you, between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces of purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
  • At any time since you turned 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
  • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
  • Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2020, did you receive a determination that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless, or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

Why does FAFSA consider me dependent?

If you answer ‘no’ to all these questions, you are going to be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. In most cases, if you are an undergraduate student, under the age of 24, single with no children, you will likely be classified as a dependent student for FAFSA purposes.

If you are required to provide parental information, but there are reasons why you can’t provide it, you will be given the opportunity to indicate this.

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Who is considered a parent on the FAFSA?

If you are considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes, you will need to provide parental information. For some families, it may not be entirely clear which parent’s information to provide. Click here if you need help determining your FAFSA parent.

If your parent is refusing to provide information, we have some tips to help you below.

Does it matter who claims a child on taxes for FAFSA?

NO. Sorry for the caps, but we want to make sure you don’t miss this answer. It does not matter which parent claims you on their taxes. If you are a dependent student, either parent can complete the FAFSA and it does not have to be the parent who claims an exemption on their tax return.

It also doesn’t matter if neither parent claims you on their taxes and you file your own taxes. If the FAFSA has determined you to be a dependent student for FAFSA purposes, it will ask you to provide parental information.

FAFSA Dependent vs. Independent

fafsa-vs-irs-dependents

Being classified as a dependent or independent undergraduate student for FAFSA purposes will have an impact on your financial aid package from your school.

Note: All graduate level students are considered independent students for FAFSA purposes.

This table shows some of the impact of being classified as a dependent or independent undergraduate student on the FAFSA.
FAFSA Dependent Student FAFSA Independent Student
Financial Information Provided Your financials, as well as your parent(s)’ will be considered in determining your eligibility for financial aid. You will only include financial information for yourself and your spouse (if you’re married).
Direct Stafford Loan Eligibility Dependent students have lower annual and aggregate borrowing limits in the Direct Stafford Loan program. However, your parent(s) will have the ability to apply for a Direct PLUS loan* to help you cover your college costs. You are eligible for independent undergraduate loan limits in the Direct Stafford Loan program.
Direct PLUS Loan Eligibility Your parent can apply for a Direct PLUS Loan to help you cover your college costs. Your parents will not be eligible to borrow a Direct PLUS Loan to help you cover your college costs. You will not be eligible to apply for a Direct PLUS Loan.

*If your parent is denied a Parent PLUS loan, you will become eligible for the independent undergraduate loan limits in the Direct Stafford Loan program.

How do you fill out the FAFSA without parents?

Don’t panic if you are unable to provide the required parental information. The FAFSA will ask you questions to see if you’re eligible for a dependency override.

FAFSA dependency override

If you indicate that you are unable to provide parental information, the FAFSA will display a list of special circumstances. If one of these applies, you will be able to complete your FAFSA without providing parental information. This means you’ve qualified for a dependency override and will be treated as an independent undergraduate student.

If you don’t qualify for one of the listed special circumstances, you won’t be able to complete the FAFSA. It will be considered ‘rejected’. However, you need to contact your school as soon as possible to explain your situation. In some instances, they may decide your situation qualifies for a dependency override. If not, they will determine if you qualify for a FAFSA professional judgment review.

What is FAFSA Professional Judgement Review?

Your parent is refusing to help you is not enough to be considered an independent student. But your school could determine that you can complete the application without parental information. The only financial aid you will be able to receive is Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan funds from the federal student aid program. There could be other types of institutional aid your school may be willing to offer you. However, this will be at the discretion of your school, even your eligibility for unsubsidized loan funds.

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