Determining Your Dependency Status

For financial aid purposes, the Department of Education classifies students as either dependent or independent. Dependent students file the FAFSA using their own and their parent(s) information. Independent students are required to provide only their own and their spouse’s (if married) information. Dependency status depends on age as well as other criteria.

It is important to note that financial aid dependency is not related to dependency for tax purposes. Select the links below for details on how dependency status is determined as well as answers to questions regarding which parent’s information should be reported and what to do if you are not in contact with your parents.

Dependency Status Resources

This resource breaks down the different qualifications for a student to be independent.

If you’re unsure, this tool may help you determine who should you list as your parent on the FAFSA.

You can learn more about the regulations surrounding dependency here.

The U.S Department of Education maintains the following circumstances do NOT make a student independent:

  • Parents refusing to contribute to the student’s education;
  • Parents unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification;
  • Parents not claiming the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  • A student can demonstrate total self-sufficiency, has been working and “on their own” for several years.

If your situation matches one of the above listed, you may still have an additional option to receive federal aid. Learn more here.

Please contact our office if:

  • you are a dependent student, and got married after you completed the FAFSA, and would like your eligibility reviewed.
  • you have any questions regarding your dependency status.
  • you feel that your particular situation warrants additional review.

The Dependency Override Process

Federal law allows some students with special circumstances that would otherwise be considered dependent to submit the FASFA without parental information. Some examples of special circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • Your parents are incarcerated;
  • You have left home due to an abusive family environment;
  • You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them.

If you are unable to provide parental information for one of these reasons, you may be eligible to complete a Dependency Override. This is an appeal to the federal regulations outlining your inability to provide the information required of a dependent student. If you believe you may qualify for a Dependency Override, your first step will be to meet with a financial aid advisor. The advisor will ask that you outline your situation so that they can better determine your eligibility for this process. If you are eligible to complete a Dependency Override, your advisor will give you the required forms. In general, we are required to collect: a statement from you (the student) explaining your special circumstance, two letters of support of your statement (one from a professional and one from another third party), any additional supporting documentation you can provide, and documents to verify your tax information. The specific documents required from each student may vary based on their circumstance.

We understand students seeking this option are likely in a difficult situation, and we do our best to make it the easiest we can. This is why we require all students seeking this option to begin by meeting with a financial aid advisor. They can help you sort out exactly what documentation to collect and help you explore all your options for resources to navigate this process. If you believe this is an option for you, you can schedule an appointment or contact us with further questions.

Options beyond a Dependency Override

Sometimes students find they do not qualify for a Dependency Override, but their parent refuses to provide information. In this circumstance, a student can only be offered an unsubsidized loan. The amount of the loan would be determined by each student’s grade level ($5,500 for first year students; $6,500 for second year students; $7,500 for third year students and beyond). If your parent refuses to provide the required information for the FAFSA, your parent must provide a signed statement to the Financial Aid Department that they 1) refuse to complete the FAFSA and 2) are no longer supporting their child. To do this, please complete this form.

Because private loans do not require a student’s parent to be a cosigner, they can be an option students whose parents are not providing information or assistance as well. You can learn more about the private loan process and different lender options here.