Unusual Circumstances and the FAFSA

There are some important things to know if you’re self-supporting, have recently experienced homelessness, or may be unable to include your parent(s)’ information on your FAFSA.


One of the questions you’ll be answering on the 2024-25 FAFSA asks if you’ve been an unaccompanied youth who was homeless, or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, any time on or after July 1, 2023. This determination can be given by:

  • a high school or district homeless liaison,
  • a director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,
  • a director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program,
  • a TRiO advisor,
  • GEAR UP staff or                        
  • a financial aid director.

If you answered “yes” to any one of the questions about homelessness, you’ll be considered an independent student, meaning you won’t have to provide parental information on the FAFSA. Later, you may be asked by a financial aid administrator to provide a copy of your homeless youth determination. If you did not receive a determination provided by one of the first five officials listed above, your status may be changed to a dependent student on the FAFSA. If your financial aid administrator decides to make their own determination, you may be required to provide additional documentation from those who are familiar with your situation. Once it’s been established that you’re an independent student, you’ll be considered independent on future FAFSAs, unless your circumstances change.

When providing a street address on your FSA ID and FAFSA applications, follow these instructions given by the U.S. Department of Education:

“You must provide a mailing address where you can reliably receive mail. Your mailing address can be the address of a relative or friend who has given you permission to use it, or it can be your college’s address. If you want to use your college’s address, you must contact the school for permission and instructions to ensure that your mail reaches you.”

Don’t forget to update your address at StudentAid.gov later when you find more permanent housing.

For more information about federal student aid for students experiencing homelessness, visit StudentAid.gov.

Unable to Provide Parental Information

If you’ve not experienced homelessness, you may still be in a situation making you unable to provide information about your parents on the FAFSA due to unusual circumstances. If you fall into this category, you’ll be given the opportunity to state on the FAFSA that you’re unable to provide parental information. Common reasons for this are:

  • you had to leave home due to abuse, abandonment or neglect
  • your parents are deceased and you haven’t been adopted
  • one or both parents are incarcerated
  • you have no contact with your parents and you don’t know how to reach them.

If one of these special circumstances applies to you, or there is another extreme situation you feel might qualify you as an independent student, submit your FAFSA without parental information. Then contact the financial aid office at your college of interest to discuss your options. By answering ‘yes’ to the question asking about unusual circumstances, you’ll be given a ‘provisional independent’ status, and can submit your FAFSA without parental information. The college’s financial aid office will ask for documentation that supports your provisional status as required by federal law.

Decreased Income

You’ll be using your 2022 income information on your 2024-25 FAFSA. If your 2023 income (or that of your parents) is less than it was in 2022, you may notify your college’s financial aid office to see if they can adjust your eligibility for aid. First, submit your FAFSA with the accurate information that was reported in 2022, and then reach out to your aid counselor. They will ask for proof of your current income, consider your request and let you know if they can make any adjustments.

Remember This

More and more attention is being given to students who are challenged by circumstances beyond their control. The financial aid office at your college is on your side, and will do whatever it can within the laws that govern financial aid and within school policies to remove obstacles that may stand in your way. We wish you the best as you begin your journey to a brighter future!