Financial Aid for Independent Students - COLLEGEdata - Pay Your Way
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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 2018-2019 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, 1995?
  2. During the 2018–2019 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, 2019?
  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.

For Students Age 18 and Older

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COLLEGEdata Dollars are
points you earn by
completing certain
COLLEGEdata activities

Ways to earn
COLLEGEdata Dollars:

  • Complete your Admissions Profile.
  • Add colleges to your College Choices.
  • Update your Admissions Statuses.
  • Use the College Match tool.

What are COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$)?

COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$) are points you earn by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. The maximum number of CD$ you can redeem is 5000. Once you have earned at least 2500 CD$, you can redeem them for $25, which will be provided to you on a Loyalty Card, and once you earn another 2500 CD$, you can redeem those CD$ for a second $25, which will also be provided to you on a Loyalty Card.

Earn points and redeem them for
U.S. Dollars

Complete certain COLLEGEdata activities (for example, signing up, starting your Admissions Profile, searching for colleges, calculating your chances for admission, searching for scholarships, updating your Profile with your admission decisions). Each activity is worth a specific amount of points (CD$). You can redeem the points you earn for U.S. Dollars that will be issued to you in the form of a 1st Financial Bank USA Loyalty Mastercard®.

How do I earn COLLEGEdata Dollars?

You can earn CD$ by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. As soon as you sign up and activate your COLLEGEdata account, explore COLLEGEdata and begin completing COLLEGEdata activities to earn points.

Here is a full list of COLLEGEdata activities for which you may earn CD$ and the number of CD$ you can earn by completing each activity.*

Activity
CD$
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+ CD$
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Check your CD$ Dashboard at the bottom of the page to view your CD$ balance, find other activities that you can complete to earn CD$, and redeem the CD$ you have earned for U.S. Dollars.