Are You an "Independent Student"? Here's How to Tell

Your dependency status determines whether your parents’ information must be included on the FAFSA. Dependent students have to include it; independent students don’t use it. Independent status isn’t about living apart from your parents or not receiving support from them. To be considered independent for federal financial aid purposes, you must be able to answer “Yes” to at least one of 13 FAFSA questions. Here are some from the 2017-18 FAFSA (click here for the complete list):

  • Were you born before Jan. 1, 1997?
  • As of today are you married? Also answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.)
  • At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
  • Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021?
  • 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, 2018?

If you answer “No” to all of the 13 FAFSA questions about dependent students, you’ll need to include parental information on your FAFSA. Under very limited circumstances (for example if you don’t know where your parents are and can’t contact them), you may be able to submit your FAFSA without parental information. In that case, you’d submit your FAFSA without parental data and then follow up with the financial aid office at your college to complete the FAFSA process.

Some programs, like certain health professions assistance programs or financial aid given directly by the school, may require parental information even if you are independent. Be sure to check with the financial aid office at your school to find out what you need to do to be considered for all of the available types of financial aid.

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