Tips for Filing the FAFSA

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WHAT IS MY FILING STATUS?  AM I DEPENDENT OR INDEPENDENT?  

Please read this page to understand some key concepts about the FAFSA.

1. When I fill out the 2013–14 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), will I have to provide information about my parents?

It depends. Answer these questions:

Were you born before Jan. 1, 1990? Yes No
Are you married? (Answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.) Yes No
At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate degree program (such as an M.A., M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., or graduate certificate, etc.)?  Yes No
Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training? (If you are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee, are you on active duty for other than state or training purposes?) Yes No
Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?* Yes No
Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014? Yes No
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, 2014? Yes No
At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court? Yes No
Has it been decided by a court in your state of legal residence that you are an emancipated minor or that you are in a legal guardianship? Yes No
At any time on or after July 1, 2012, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison or (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development? Yes No
At any time on or after July 1, 2012, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless? Yes No

*Answer No (you are not a veteran) if you (1) have never engaged in active duty in the U.S. armed forces, (2) are currently a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) student or a cadet or midshipman at a service academy, (3) are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee activated only for state or training purposes, or (4) were engaged in active duty in the U.S. armed forces but released under dishonorable conditions. Also answer No if you are currently serving in the U.S. armed forces and will continue to serve through June 30, 2014.

Answer Yes (you are a veteran) if you (1) have engaged in active duty in the U.S. armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard) or are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee who was called to active duty for other than state or training purposes, or were a cadet or midshipman at one of the service academies and (2) were released under a condition other than dishonorable. Also answer Yes if you are not a veteran now but will be one by June 30, 2014.

Did you answer Yes to any of the questions? If so, then for federal student aid purposes, you’re considered to be an independent student and do not have to provide information about your parents on the FAFSA.

Did you answer No to every question? If so, then for federal student aid purposes, you’re considered to be a dependent student, and you must provide information about your parents on the FAFSA. Not sure who counts as your parent? See the instructions on the FAFSA or check out ''Who Is My Parent When I Fill Out the FAFSA?'' at www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov/pubs.

If you have no contact with your parents and don’t know where they live, you should discuss your situation with the financial aid office at the college or career school you plan to attend. The financial aid administrator will help you figure out what to do next.


2. Who Is My "Parent" When I Fill Out the FASFA?

Maybe you know you’re considered a dependent student* by the FAFSA, and you’re supposed to put information about your parents on the application. But what if your parents are divorced? Remarried? What if you live with your sister? Here’s some information that might help:

  • If your parents are living and married to each other, answer the questions about them.
  • If your parents are living together and are not married but meet the criteria in your state for a common-law marriage, answer the questions about both of them. If your state does not consider them to be married, fill out the parental information as if they are divorced. (See below.)
  • If your parent is widowed or single, answer the questions about that parent. If your widowed parent is remarried as of the day you sign the FAFSA, answer the questions about that parent and the person whom your parent married (your step-parent).
  • If your parents are divorced or separated, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. (If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent. If this parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions on the FAFSA about that parent and the person whom your parent married : your step-parent)
  • The following people are not your parents unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

EXCEPTION: The FAFSA asks about your parents’ education level. For these two questions, your parents are considered to be your birth parents or adoptive parents—your stepparent is not your parent in these questions.

What if my parents are worried about providing their private information on the FAFSA?

Their information is safe with us. We recommend you fill out your FAFSA online, where your information is put into special code before it's sent over the Internet to our processor. Also, we won't share your FAFSA information with anyone except the schools you tell us you want to attend (se they can use the information to award financial aid to you) and a few federal government agencies (so they can check to be sure you've reported your information accurately).

What if I don't live with my parents?

You still must answer the questions about them if you're considered a dependent student.

What if my parents aren't going to help me pay for college and refuse to provide information for my FAFSA?

You can't be considered independent of your parents just because they refuse to help you in this process. If you do not provide their information on the FAFSA, the application will be considered "rejected," and you might not be able to receive any federal student aid. The most you would be able to get (depending on what the financial aid administrator at your college decides) would be a loan called an unsubsidized loan. The FAFSA will tell you what to do if you are in this situation. You also will need to speak to the financial aid administrator at the college or trade school you plan to attend.

What if I have no contact with my parents?

If you don’t know where your parents are, or you’ve left home due to an abusive situation, fill out the FAFSA and then immediately get in touch with the financial aid office at the college or trade school you plan to attend. The financial aid administrator will tell you what to do next. Don’t put this off or you might miss financial aid deadlines!


3. What Information Do I Need When I Fill Out the FAFSA?


4. What is a Federal Studen AID PIN and Why Do I Need One?


5. What if ... ? Pin Questions


6. Why Should I File My FAFSA Online?


7. Myths about Financial Aid

 


 

8. Dependent or Independent