Dependent or Independent?

Question Mark in a Ball

How you answer certain questions on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) determines your dependency status.

  • Dependent students report their own and their parents’ information.
    • If your parents are divorced or separated, include the parent you lived with, lived with last, or lived with the most.
    • If the parent you lived with has remarried, you must also include your step-parent’s information.
  • Independent students report their own information, and if married, their spouse’s

The federal student aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily your and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. A dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, so the parents’ information must be assessed along with the student’s, in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength. If you’re a dependent student, it doesn’t mean your parents are required to pay anything toward your education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner. Likewise, you may be financially independent from you parents, but still be a dependent student on the FAFSA.

If Parents’ Refuse to Provide Information

You can’t be considered independent of your parents just because they refuse to help you with this process. If you do not provide their information on the FAFSA form, the application will be considered “rejected” by the federal processor, and you might not be able to receive any federal student aid. You may qualify for a loan only, but this is the most you qualify for. The FAFSA instructions tell you what to do if you are in this situation. Learn more about how to fill out the FAFSA form when your parents aren’t supporting you and won’t provide their information.

Students who have no Contact with Parents

If you have no contact with your parents and don’t know where they live, or you’ve left home due to an abusive situation, fill out the FAFSA form and then immediately get in touch with us. Our staff can tell you what to do next. Learn more about how to fill out the FAFSA form if you have special circumstances that prevent you from providing parent information.

Last Updated March 18, 2021