Do you have reason to believe that the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) you recently submitted needs to be updated or reconsidered due to special circumstances in your family? You can correct simple errors by logging in to your FAFSA at FAFSA.gov, but some adjustments can only be made by a financial aid officer at your college.
The FAFSA will ask up to 13 dependency questions, and the answers to those questions will determine whether you are dependent or independent. 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 supplying parental information can be a challenge to some students due to ‘special circumstances’. 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’ information can definitely affect the amount of financial aid that you would otherwise be eligible to receive.
There are times when a 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.
Adjustments to Family Income
If you and your parents have experienced a loss of income since 2019*, be sure to talk to someone in financial aid. Some reasons your income could be lower are:
- Change in employment status
- A divorce or separation
- Unusual medical expenses not covered by insurance
- Unusual dependent care expenses
Once you supply documentation that shows your current family income or special circumstance, a financial aid officer may be able to make adjustments that reflect what you and your family are currently experiencing, rather than what was reflected on your FAFSA. This would be done after you have reported your correct 2019 income on your FAFSA, and only someone from your financial aid office can adjust those figures.
The financial aid staff at your college will always be your best resource when you have questions about special circumstances. It’s important to contact them if you have any comments or concerns.
*Information from the 2019 tax year must be reported on the 2021-2022 FAFSA. The FAFSA will always ask for information from two years prior to the academic year for which the application is being submitted.