How Do You Qualify for Independent Status on Your FAFSA?
In order to file for financial aid in the United States, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This complicated form requires you to provide detailed information about your financial situation—and your family’s—and based on this information, the government awards you a financial aid package.
But is it necessary to include your parent’s financial information? There are two ways to fill out a FAFSA. Most traditional students fill out the form as a dependent on their parents, which means they have to provide information about their parents’ finances. However, some students are eligible to fill out the FAFSA as an independent. This means that it’s assumed that you are going to be funding your education without help from your parents, and you don’t have to include your parents’ financial info.
In many (although not all) cases, filing as an independent means you’ll be eligible for a better financial aid package. However, there are restrictions on who is eligible to claim independent status. It’s not enough to simply claim that your parents aren’t paying for your college education—even if that’s the truth.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, students must meet at least one of the six following criteria to qualify for independent status:
- At least 24 years old by the end of the award year.
- An orphan, a ward of the court, or a former ward of the court until your 18th birthday.
- A U.S. military veteran.
- A graduate or professional student.
- A person with dependents other than a spouse.
In addition, students are sometimes awarded independent status due to special circumstances, such as a total breakdown in the relationship between the parents and the student.