How To File A FAFSA As An Independent Student

How To File A FAFSA As An Independent Student

When undergraduate students apply for federal monetary assist, the federal government makes default assumptions about their monetary standing. An undergraduate student beneath 24 years outdated is routinely categorised as a dependent student, or a student who can present the monetary info of fogeys or guardians.

What if that’s not the case for you?

You can nonetheless pay for undergraduate training. You’ll should perform a little extra work to safe monetary assist, however it’s doable. Many unbiased undergraduate students make it: a 2014 survey by the American Association of Community Colleges discovered that 35.6 p.c of undergraduates at public four-year faculties thought of themselves financially unbiased.

Here’s what it is advisable to know to file a FAFSA as an unbiased student.

What’s a dependent student?

To apply for any form of federal help, each grants and loans, you begin by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA requires you to file as both

  • A dependent student who will report your dad and mom’ monetary information in addition to your individual
  • An unbiased student who will report solely your monetary information (and your partner’s, in case you are married).

The quantity you report impacts the need-based assist you obtain. This means for those who report your dad and mom’ earnings as a dependent, the varsity could count on a bigger monetary contribution from you, whether or not or not your dad and mom assist you to pay.

Student Aid has a information to who qualifies as a father or mother for FAFSA functions, notably in circumstances the place dad and mom are divorced. Legal guardians solely rely in the event that they’ve legally adopted you.

One essential guideline: you may nonetheless be a dependent student even when your dad and mom haven’t any plans to contribute financially to your training, room, or board. If you’re beneath 24 and utterly self-sufficient, you’re nonetheless thought of a dependent except you may show in any other case.

Why is it so robust to be declared an unbiased undergraduate student?

For one, unbiased students will typically report a decrease earnings than they might in the event that they included parental information. This makes them eligible for lots extra assist—good for the student, however not pretty much as good for the federal grant and loan servicers. Schools are restricted within the quantity of assist they can provide, and these tips assist them distribute extra assist to extra students whereas preserving prices down.

So what does it take to be declared unbiased? Any one of many conditions beneath ought to apply to you. These standards are taken from the 2017-2018 FAFSA, however they might change barely yearly.

  • You’re not less than 24 on or earlier than December 31 of the 12 months you’ll be awarded assist.
  • You’re married (or separated however not divorced).
  • You’re making use of to graduate or skilled faculty, no matter your age.
  • You’re on lively responsibility within the US Armed Forces or National Guard for functions aside from coaching.
  • You’re a veteran of the US Armed Forces.
  • You have dependents your self—kids, normally, however anybody who can legally be declared your dependent for tax functions and receives greater than half their assist from you.
  • Both your dad and mom are deceased.
  • You’re in foster care, or have been in foster care anytime after you turned 13.
  • You’re a ward of the court docket, or have been a ward of the court docket anytime after you turned 13.
  • You are, or have been earlier than you turned 18, legally declared an emancipated minor.
  • You’ve been homeless, or self-supporting and on the danger of being homeless, throughout the previous 12 months. (Student Aid defines “homeless” as missing mounted or common housing.)
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What for those who don’t meet any of those standards, however nonetheless can’t present your dad and mom’ info on the FAFSA?

The pink tape is irritating, however we don’t advocate a fast wedding ceremony or adoption of a dependent baby to get unbiased standing. You have just a few choices.

Submit the FAFSA with out father or mother info

One state of affairs, widespread sufficient for Federal Student Aid to present it particular consideration, is dad and mom who’re unsupportive and refuse to supply their info for the FAFSA.

If your dad and mom can’t or gained’t pay any of your bills, they might nonetheless be thought of supportive. Unsupportive dad and mom are outlined as those that gained’t give their info—who need nothing to do with the method in any respect.

You ought to nonetheless submit the FAFSA, however be sincere. Explain you don’t have a particular circumstance however you may’t present father or mother info.

If you do submit the shape with out father or mother info, you gained’t obtain an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC determines eligibility for assist. Not having one could remove you from consideration for sure state—and college—primarily based assist packages.

The solely federal assist you’re in a position to get on this case is an unsubsidized loan, and even that’s not assured. But it doesn’t matter what, it’s best to fill out the FAFSA—an unsubsidized loan is best than no assist in any respect. Contact the monetary assist workplace on the faculty you wish to attend to see if you may get an unsubsidized loan. They might have, for those who can present it, a written assertion out of your dad and mom explaining their lack of assist.

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Two issues to notice:

This is price repeating: Supportive (in response to Student Aid) doesn’t essentially imply ready or prepared to pay for varsity. It doesn’t even imply your dad and mom are supporting you financially in different methods.

If your dad and mom are on board along with your need to attend faculty, and may present their info, this information gained’t obligate them to contribute any cash. What it’ll do is improve the potential of assist for you.

If you or your dad and mom are involved about getting into their info due to their citizenship or immigration standing, there’s excellent news. The FAFSA gained’t ask to your dad and mom’ citizenship standing and also you don’t want to supply it. In this case, you’ve the choice of leaving out your dad and mom’ Social Security Numbers, Tax Identification Numbers, and tax submitting info on the FAFSA.

Work your manner by means of faculty

Ask the monetary assist workplace about job choices on and off campus. You could not qualify for work-study, however you should still be capable of work part-time round your programs.

You could have to plan extra time to finish your undergraduate diploma. Since you reapply for monetary assist utilizing the FAFSA yearly, it’s possible you’ll qualify as an unbiased in a subsequent 12 months (e.g. for those who attain the age requirement) and get extra assist.

Apply for a dependency override

If your dad and mom are utterly out of the image, that is an possibility to think about.

Dependency overrides—choices to grant dependency standing to students who in any other case wouldn’t qualify—are robust to get. They’re solely granted in uncommon circumstances.

Just a few conditions which can benefit a dependency override:

  • You have been in an abusive (bodily or emotionally) dwelling surroundings and left dwelling.
  • Both dad and mom are incarcerated or institutionalized.
  • Both dad and mom are hospitalized for an prolonged interval.
  • You’re married, however your partner is deceased.
  • Your dad and mom have deserted you and also you’ve had no contact with them for not less than a 12 months. FinAid offers extra details about what constitutes abandonment.

You ought to nonetheless submit the FAFSA for those who’re in one of many conditions above. Indicate on the shape that you’ve particular circumstances. You gained’t obtain an EFC. The subsequent step is to seek the advice of your faculty’s monetary assist workplace.


If your circumstances are much less clear—you’re nonetheless within the means of declaring your self an emancipated minor, as an illustration, or your housing scenario is lower than steady however you’re not homeless—it’s nonetheless price inquiring a few dependency override. They’re granted on a case-by-case foundation. The worst you may hear isn’t any.

Be ready with any documentation it’s possible you’ll have to show your scenario. See for those who can entry related court docket and legislation enforcement paperwork, as an illustration. You’ll additionally wish to usher in a impartial third get together, like a social employee, counselor, or trainer, to advocate for you.

One faculty requires a letter from the student explaining their circumstances, letters from three professionals verifying the household scenario, and the students’ tax returns to think about a dependency override. It’s a whole lot of work, however it might be price it.

Speak on to the universities you’re contemplating.

You ought to do that it doesn’t matter what. Talk to the monetary assist workplace earlier than you fill out your FAFSA. Some faculties could also be extra prepared to level you to outdoors and school-specific sources of assist.

It’s doubtless that if the varsity has already accepted you as a student, they’ll do no matter they will that will help you attend. They need you there!

Apply for personal grants, loans, and scholarships.

Private sources of assist—not affiliated with the federal authorities—give out help on the discretion of the lender. Their tips could differ from the federal government’s tips. See what’s on the market. Look for scholarships designed to your area of examine. Your faculty monetary assist workplace could have some suggestions.

See if you may get an unsubsidized federal loan earlier than taking out non-public loans, nonetheless. If you do select non-public loans, take a cautious take a look at their phrases of reimbursement and rates of interest. Most usually, non-public loans have much less versatile payback phrases than federal loans.

And begin looking early, even earlier than you fill out the FAFSA. Deadlines sneak up on you!


Bottom line: if you wish to take programs or pursue an undergraduate diploma as an unbiased student, you are able to do it. Keep your choices open—group faculty, on-line programs, or part-time enrollment, for instance—and plan forward.

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