Question
:  I plan to pay for college without my parent’s support- can I fill out the FAFSA as an independent student?

It is great that you plan to pay for college on your own; we feel that all students should play an active role in paying for college.  Most student bear part of this burden by taking on student loans, participating in a work-study program and/or using their personal savings.  Unfortunately, the intention of paying for college on your own is not enough to qualify as an independent student for FAFSA purposes.  The Department of Education has very specific guidelines; to qualify as an independent student, you must be able to answer yes to one of the following questions:

  • Are you at least 23 years old before January 1st of the year you plan to attend college?  (example: for the 2012-2013 school year, were you born before 1/1/1989)?
  • As of the day you fill out the FAFSA, are you married?
  • Are you working on a master’s or doctorate program?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the US Armed Forces or are you a veteran of the US Armed Forces?
  • Do you have children or other dependents who will receive more than half of their support from you this year?
  • Are both your parents deceased, are you in foster care, in legal guardianship, a ward of the court, or emancipated minor?
  • Are you homeless or at risk of becoming homeless?

If you cannot answer yes to one of these questions, you will need to use your custodial parent’s information when filling out the FAFSA.  As with anything, there are exceptions to the rule, but you will need to appeal to the college(s) individual financial aid office where you plan to attend to be granted independent status.

Do you have a question about financial aid?  Submit a question in the comments below or click here to submit a question in private.  We will do our best to answer all questions within 2 business days.

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