Appealing your FAFSA Dependency Status | 03.10.11

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, financial aid tips By Student Loan Network Staff

One of the most common issues students deal with revolves around the FAFSA filing status. Many students feel they should be considered independent, yet the FAFSA still requires them to file as dependent. Under special circumstances, students have the ability to appeal their dependency status. For those students who believe their circumstances qualify them for financial independence (for FAFSA purposes), I’m going to walk you through how to do this, including what documents you may need. If you don’t know your current status, read our post on Dependent VS. Independent Status.

What types of situations can be appealed?

First thing’s first, if your sole reason for filing an appeal is that you support yourself or that your parents refuse to support your education, then you will not qualify for an appeal. However, other circumstances are considered. Some common reasons for appealing dependency include:

  • Abandonment
  • Danger of physical or mental abuse
  • Your parents (or parent for single parent family) are incarcerated
  • Your supporting parent is deceased and you have no contact with the other

Keep in mind, these are not the only reasons that are accepted as schools differ in their requirements. If you’re not sure if your particular situation qualifies, you should contact a financial aid officer from your school.

How to appeal

Each school has specific guidelines for the appeals process, and in some cases, there are school-specific forms you will need to fill out. Most of the time you can find the qualifications and forms on the school’s website. However, the one thing that most schools ask for is a letter from the student explaining their circumstances. In this letter, make sure to be specific! After all, you’re arguing your case, so the more information you provide, the better. Included in this letter should be 1) why your parents aren’t helping 2) information regarding your income and what your money is allotted for and 3) your educational goals, explaining why more money is necessary to achieve them through your institution. Each situation is different, so tailor the letter to you and what your needs are. Along with this letter, it is important to provide as much documentation as possible to back up your claim. Acceptable documentation includes (but is not limited to):

  • Letters attesting to a student’s situation: Most schools require students to submit letters from independent sources. These can be from almost anyone who knows your story- ministers, friends, non-parental relatives, guidance counselors, attourneys etc. These letters should explain the writer’s relationship to the student, and like the student’s letter, provide as much detail as possible about the student’s situation. Depending on school guidelines, these may need to be notarized.
  • Bank statements
  • W2s
  • Court documents/ police reports
  • Documentation of parental incarceration
  • Death certificates

What now?

Once all of your required documents have been submitted, all you can do is wait. Depending on your school, your appeal will be reviewed by a financial aid officer or panel of officers who will work with the Department of Education to change your status (hopefully). It is possible that more documentation may be required, and if this is the case, you will be contacted. If you do need to provide more, don’t panic! Simply provide the requested documents and wait it out. Note: If you are approved for a certain year, this does not mean that you are approved for upcoming years as well. For future academic years, you will need to appeal again!

Navigating the FAFSA to get adequate financial aid can be a nightmare for some students, so appealing dependency status may be the difference between going to school or not. If you have any specific questions about your school’s process, they should be directed to your financial aid office. Good luck!


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8 Responses to “Appealing your FAFSA Dependency Status”

  1. Kevbo says on September 13, 2012 at 11:21 pm:

    If you were an illegal – you could go to school for free…

    Reply To This Comment
  2. Catrina Craft says on August 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm:

    In this world many students are Independent before 23, because their parents can’t afford to help them. So where’s the inclusion for those students. Yes, some people will lie and cheat, but the majority are financially strapped.

    Reply To This Comment
    • Summer says on August 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm:

      that is the boat I’m stuck in right now

      Reply To This Comment
  3. James says on January 17, 2012 at 11:27 pm:

    A dead thread yes, but I have to agree with the above. I found it quite frustrating when I looked at my fasfa that said upto 3000 in pell grants and only got 1,000 and now 10,000 in loans a great start to my future. Second I buy all my own stuff, rent, utilties, car insurance and I even have my own health insurance, and even though I support my self apparently they assume i would get money from my parents wallet…grea thinking. I believe they need to come up with a new method of figuring dependency because why be independent if the government doesnt recognize it and work to help me better my self and my country…ohwell on with the shinanigans we go.

    Reply To This Comment
  4. Leah says on October 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm:

    Will someone please tell me the logic behind not allowing financially independent people, independent classification? If my parents do not support me, I am over 18, I am the sole provider of my food, shelter, and medical care, then why is it that,per the IRS, I am considered an “Independent Filer” and “Head of Household,” but FAFSA classifies me as a dependent. Dependent on whom exactly? If I provide evidence of my independent living, I believe the onus is on FAFSA to disprove it. Precisely how is this dependency policy empowering youth to leave the nest and become responsible adults? In that same vein, is not the student who proves capable of self-sufficiency the better risk for financial aid and assistance? For if a student must provide, as proof of independence to FAFSA, records of consistently paid bills, and or debts, then they clearly understand fiscal responsibility (as opposed to the student who is dropping classes on Mom and Dad’s money). Lastly, if the majority of loans disbursed by university financial aid departments are unsubsidized and private, at the exorbitant rate of 6%-7%+ interest, then why does FAFSA have any say whatsoever about who gets what loan? It seems obvious that ALL students should be able to accept a high interest loan if forced to. Finally, regarding the current student lending practices, I have some questions: 1) Why are unsubsidized loans disbursed before, and many times in lieu of, Pell grants, while grant money is still available (students, check your paperwork-it’s right there in black and white)? 2) Why are student loan interest rates jumping to rates higher than privatized consumer loans? Why can I get a house or car loan at o%-1% APR, but my student loans (supposedly GOVT. loans) are 5-6-7 times that? 3)Why are students being denied loans at a greater rate at community colleges versus 4-year, and private institutions? 5)Why are students (esp. comm. college level) denied funds when there are still funds available to lend? 6) Why are you keeping people uneducated?

    Reply To This Comment
    • LeAnn says on October 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm:

      Thank you Leah!!! This is a fight that I have been dealing with for the past 4 years and it is exhausting. My parents won’t provide any information, and I support myself 100%. I don’t know if I can even finish out school now that I am done with community college (which I paid for out of my own pocket too!!!). The federal government needs to get with the times or there will be no future!!!

      Reply To This Comment
    • Elisa says on November 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm:

      I am in 100% agreement. I have been trying to fight this for the past 2 years.

      Reply To This Comment
  5. Karissa says on May 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm:

    “Your supporting parent is deceased and you have no contact with the other.”

    I am currently appealing under special circumstances for the above situation. My mother is deceased and I have no contact with my father and haven’t for over a decade. My mother passed in 2010, and I am applying for FAFSA for the 2011-2012 year. My school is requiring I submit my mother’s tax income for 2009, and said I could possibly be denied financial aid if my mother could have assisted me that year! I am not an inheritor in her will, and I have been IRS independent since 2008. How can they deny me for money I could have received two years ago that doesn’t exist now?

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