Financial Aid for Independent Students - COLLEGEdata - Pay Your Way

Financial Aid for Independent Students

No matter how independent from your parents you think you are, you may not meet the government's definition. Get the facts before assuming you can check "independent" on the FAFSA.

You may be 18 and paying for college yourself, but the government may consider you dependent on your parents. Or you may be a veteran and living with your parents. The government may still consider you independent.

The Government's Strict Definitions of Independence

When it comes to financial aid eligibility, the government defines student dependency differently than it does for tax purposes. The government has seven criteria for student independence. If you will be applying for financial aid for the 2017-2018 academic year and answer "Yes" to any of the following questions, the government considers you independent when it comes to financial aid:

  1. Were you born before January 1, 1994?
  2. During the 2017–2018 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctoral program (such as an M.A., M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., or graduate certificate, etc.)?
  3. As of today, are you married? (Answer "Yes" if you are separated but not divorced.)
  4. Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
  5. Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you now and through June 30, 2018?
  6. Are you an orphan, or have you been (until age 18) a ward or dependent of the court?
  7. Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?

Suppose Your Parents Consider You Independent?

What if the government considers you dependent for financial aid purposes, but your parents do not contribute any money toward your education? In most cases, financial aid officers will be happy to discuss your personal situation with you. They are a good source of information and advice on how to proceed. You may need to negotiate with those officers or make other plans to finance your college education, such as securing scholarships not based on financial need, obtaining personal loans, or working extra hours.

What's Next?

Note: Financial information provided on this site is of a general nature and may not apply to your situation. Contact a financial or tax advisor before acting on such information.