When completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year that you need money for college, the application may ask up to 13 dependency questions to determine whether you’re a dependent or an independent student. If you answer NO to every dependency question, you’ll be considered a dependent student, which means you’ll be asked to report one or both parents’ income and tax information.
But it’s not always that easy, because supplying parental information can be a challenge to some students due to special circumstances. If you’re in this situation, you’ll have an opportunity on the FAFSA to state that you’re unable to provide your parents’ information, at which time the FAFSA will inform you that a dependent student who doesn’t include his/her parents’ information will only be eligible for one type of federal financial aid—an Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan. Not reporting your parents’ data can definitely affect the amount of financial aid that you would otherwise be eligible to receive.
There are times when a college financial aid officer can ‘override’ your dependency status and change it to an independent status. This can be done if:
- You had to leave home due to an abusive environment,
- Your parents are incarcerated, or
- You’re unable to contact your parents and don’t know where they live.
A financial aid officer won’t be able to switch your status to ‘independent’ simply because:
- Your parents refuse to contribute their information,
- You weren’t claimed as a dependent on their tax return, or
- You aren’t living with your parents.
Basically, a dependency override can only be done in extreme situations. If you still believe you should be declared independent, discuss your circumstances with a financial aid officer at your school(s) of interest. A college’s financial aid office will always be your best resource when you have questions about anything related to the FAFSA. It’s important to contact them if you have any comments or concerns.
Use UCanGo2’s Dependency Questionnaire to determine your status.