FAFSA Dependency Questions | Step 5
Step #5 of the FAFSA Online Guide to the FAFSA Form tutorial follows. If you have not read through steps 1-4, we suggest you start with step #1. If you are ready to file your FAFSA form or Renewal FAFSA form online, then please click here.
Dependency Status Determination
A few words on dependency: dependency in financial aid is significantly different than dependency for tax purposes. Here are the criteria for whom the Department of Education classifies as an independent student. If you do not meet any of these criteria, then you are classified as a dependent student for the purpose of your financial aid application. Note: Your FAFSA status is not the same as your tax filing status.
- You were born before January 1, 1990
- You are or will be enrolled in a masters or Doctoral degree program at the beginning of the school year
- You are married on the day you file your FAFSA
- You are a parent
- You have dependents other than your spouse who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you at the time you apply
- Both your parents are deceased (or were until age 18) a ward of dependent of the court
- You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
- You're a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
- You were a foster child after the age of 13
- You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge
- You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison
Still unsure of your status? Here are answers to common dependency questions regarding who is a dependent student and a quiz to determine your status.
Whether you believe you are independent or not does not change your dependency status on the FAFSA. Many students each year attempt to file as independent students because they are living on their own and are self-sufficient or their parents refuse to contribute to their education. However, under federal regulations, they are still classified as dependent students. You must file your FAFSA based on the dependency requirements listed above or you risk getting no federal financial aid.
The dependency questions are a series of yes or no questions. Remember that these are all questions being asked from the perspective of the student.
Tip: If, after you receive your FAFSA results, you feel that you should be evaluated as an independent student, you can appeal to your college's financial aid office, but be prepared to extensively document your situation and case.
Tip: Emancipated minor is a formal legal status that must be declared by a court of law. Simply moving out of your parents' household does not count. A judge must legally declare you emancipated. The court order must still be in effect at the time you file your FAFSA.
If you are in legal guardianship as determined by a court, you are automatically an independent student. Like legally emancipated, this is a formal legal judgment by a court of law.
Homeless students are automatically independent students. The Department of Education is still trying to figure out how to determine homelessness and the documentation process for homeless students.
The determination of homelessness can be made by one of three legal entities:
- A high school or school district liaison.
- A director of an accredited HUD homeless shelter
- A director of a runaway/transitional living program or homeless youth basic shelter.
Tip: Homeless is strictly defined as lacking fixed, regular, adequate housing. This includes living in shelters, hotels, cars, or couch-surfing anywhere you can. Additionally, anyone in this situation who is fleeing an abusive home also qualifies as homeless, even if the parent would provide support. Unaccompanied means that you are not in the physical custody or care of a parent or guardian. This status only applies to students under the age of 21. If you answer yes to any of the questions on homelessness, you will need to provide documentation from your high school or school district of your status.
A director of a runaway or homeless shelter can make the determination that you are self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, which means you are living on your own, paying your own way, and are at risk of homelessness.
Finally, a financial aid administrator can, in the absence of other officials, override the FAFSA and help make the determination of homelessness.
>> Continue to Step 6: Independent Students & Special Circumstances