By: Katie Wornek, UHEAA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application you must submit to be considered for all forms of federal student aid (grants, work-study, and student loans). Some states and colleges also use the FAFSA to decide how to distribute the money in their student aid budgets. The FAFSA asks questions about your income, assets, family size, and other factors to analyze the financial situation in your household. The goal of obtaining this information is to estimate how much assistance you might need to pay for college.
If you were born after January 1, 1995, you will most likely be considered a “dependent student” on the 2018-2019 FAFSA. That means, unless you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you must provide your parent(s)’ demographic and financial information.
My parents are married
If your parents are married, you need to provide information for both of them on the FAFSA.
My parents are not married (they were never married, they are separated, or they are divorced)
If your parents are not married but still live together, you need to provide information for both of them.
If your parents are not married and do not live together…
You need to provide information for the parent you lived with more over the past 12 months. If you believe you lived with each parent an equal amount of time, you must provide information for the parent who provided more of your financial support in the last year.
If the parent you live with the most has remarried…
You need to provide that stepparent’s information too.
I don’t live with my parents…
If you live with someone other than your parents, you cannot list that person as your parent on the FAFSA unless they have legally adopted you. In other words, you must still provide your parent(s)’ information on the FAFSA, even if you don’t live with them.
If the person you live with has legal guardianship of you, you are independent…
You do not have to provide anyone’s information on the FAFSA besides your own.
I cannot provide my parent(s)’ information
Students often ask me, “What if I’m a dependent on the FAFSA but I cannot provide my parent(s)’ information?” The short (and harsh) answer is that you can still complete the FAFSA, but you will only be considered for unsubsidized federal student loans. The long (but more hopeful) answer is that there may be another solution.
If your parent(s) are reluctant to provide their personal information…
Ask your parents about their hesitations and explain to them why their cooperation is important. Let them know that completing the FAFSA does not obligate them to provide you financial support, nor does it make them responsible for any student loans you borrow. If you have a legitimate reason for not being able to provide your parent(s)’ information (if you do not have contact with them, for example), talk to the financial aid office at your college or university. In some circumstances, the financial aid office staff can perform a professional judgment to override your dependency status and reconsider you for aid.
If you have additional questions, this flowchart from the Department of Education can help.