How the FAFSA Evaluates Whether You are Dependent

Learn how to determine dependency (dependent or independent).


For financial aid purposes, a student's dependency status determines whether the parents' information must be included on the FAFSA and who has primary responsibility for educational expenses.

  • If the student is dependent for financial aid purposes, both the student and the student's parent(s) must complete the FAFSA. The student and parents are jointly responsible for educational expenses.
  • If the student is independent for financial aid purposes, only the student completes the FAFSA. The student alone is responsible for paying educational expenses.
  • If the student is married, the student and his or her spouse completes the FAFSA.
Note: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Education rules for determining dependency are different. The student and family should be prepared to provide supporting documentation.

Dependency Criteria

For the 2014-2015 school year, a student is considered independent only if he or she can answer "yes" to any one of the following questions:

  1. Were you born before January 1, 1991?

  2. As of today, are you married? (Also answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.)

  3. At the beginning of the 2014–2015 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, graduate certificate, etc.)?

  4. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?

  5. Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?

  6. Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015?

  7. Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2015?

  8. At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?

  9. Are you or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?

  10. Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?

  11. At any time on or after July 1, 2013, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?

  12. At any time on or after July 1, 2013, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?

  13. At any time on or after July 1, 2013, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

A student who answers "yes" to any one of the questions is independent and must complete only the student sections of the FAFSA.

For non-federal funds, such as institutional aid, some schools may require independent students to provide parental information on the FAFSA. An independent student may also need to provide parental data for certain federal programs administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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