Determining Dependency (according to FAFSA)

Determining whether a student is INDEPENDENT for financial aid consideration (which means that the custodial parents’ income and asset information is not considered in determining a student’s financial aid).

Regardless of how much support a student actually receives from his or her parents, he or she is still considered a DEPENDENT student for financial aid purposes UNLESS at least one of the following criteria is met:

  1. For the 2013-14 school year, the student was born before January 1, 1990; or
  2. the student is married; or
  3. the student has a child or children who receive more than half their support from the student; or
  4. the student has dependents (other than a child or spouse) who receive more than half their support from the student, and who also live with the student; or
  5. the student is enrolled as a graduate or professional student (pursuing a master’s degree or doctoral degree); or
  6. the student is a qualified veteran of the U.S. military, or currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training; or
  7. the student is an orphan (both parents deceased) or ward of the court or in foster care at any time after turning age 13, or was a ward of the court until age 18; or
  8. the student is/was in legal guardianship; or
  9. the student is/was an emancipated minor; or
  10. the student was an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or at risk of being homeless on or after July 1, 2012; or
  11. the student has special and unusual extenuating circumstances that can be documented for his or her college financial aid administrators, who may then request a “dependency override” on the FAFSA application. (Note: Exceptions are granted very rarely and only in extreme cases.)


Many students feel that they should be able to declare INDEPENDENT status because they live on their own, file their own taxes, or receive no support from their parents. Unfortunately, the Department of Education is extremely strict with regard to determining dependency status.