FAFSA Tip: Eligibility for Independent Student Status | 10.08.10

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Stafford Loan, Student Loans, Twitter By Student Loan Network Staff

I have received some inquiries about my previous blog: Four Bizarre things you did not know about the FAFSA.

What qualifies you as an Independent Student?

If one or any of the following apply to you, then you will be considered an Independent Student:

  1. You are enrolled in a Masters program, Doctorate Degree, or graduate Certification program
    • age does not matter, if you are enrolled in any of these types of programs you are considered and independent student
  2. You have a child or children that are your legal dependent(s)
    • you may have a family member etc. that is considered your dependent…he/she does not necessarily have to be a child
  3. You are married
  4. You are under the age of 24 and both of your parents are deceased
  5. You were a ward of your state until you were 18 years of age
  6. You are 24 years of age or older
  7. You are a Veteran of the United States Armed Force
  8. You were a foster child after the age of 13.
  9. You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge.
  10. You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison.

Want more details, visit: FAFSA Online : Independent Students

The most important aspect of this is to remember that your school has the right to reassess certain circumstances, a process called professional judgment.

Some students have no contact with their parents, and therefore cannot use their tax information for filing the FAFSA. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to go to your school’s financial aid office and ask them for help. Chances are, you’ll also need to bring plentiful documentation (rent, utilities, etc.) to prove that your situation is as you say it is. You’ll be asking for a professional judgment override on dependency status.

What this means is, if you’re under 24, in order to file as an independent, you must first go to your local courthouse and ask to appear before a judge to be ‘legally emancipated’ and apply as an independent student.

Update: We just wrote a pretty helpful blog about how people in situations like yours can get a FAFSA dependency change. For information on this, read Appealing Your FAFSA Dependency Status

More: When are the FAFSA Deadlines


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588 Responses to “FAFSA Tip: Eligibility for Independent Student Status”

  1. Shaw says on November 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm:

    I will turn 24 on Jan. 13, 2013 (spring) school year. If I apply now for college for the 2012-2013 school year will I qualify as an independent student for that school year? I know it stated that an independent student has to be born before Jan. 1, 1989 but I was wondering if any exceptions can be made considering I am only 12 days away from Jan 1st.

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on November 28, 2011 at 9:15 am:

      Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to this. In order to qualify as independent by age for the 2012-2013 year, a student must turn 24 before Jan. 1, 2013.

      Reply To This Comment
  2. lisa s says on November 17, 2011 at 10:08 am:

    Hi,my son is 23 years old now and will be 24 in june 2012, i am assuming he will be able to claim financial independence for the 2012-2013 school year; but i am confused as to weather i should claim him on my taxes this year(2011) and if so what happens with the education credits etc…Thank you

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on November 23, 2011 at 11:33 am:

      Yes, your son may file as independent for the 2012-2013 year because he was born prior to Jan. 1, 1989. Whether or not you claim his on your taxes is a separate issue and should be determined by the IRS guidelines.

      Reply To This Comment
  3. Jackie says on November 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm:

    I am currently 23 but during the 2011-2012 school year ill turn 24 in March of 2012 so am i still condsedered dependant?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on November 16, 2011 at 9:45 am:

      If you are filing for the 2012-2013 year, then you could file as independent. For the remainder of the 2011-2012 year, you are still considered dependent because it’s not as of your birthday, but as of January 1 of your birth year.

      Reply To This Comment
  4. Charlie says on November 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm:

    Hi, I’m 19 years old and I applied for financial aid but was denied for a grant. I do not live with either of my parents and have extremely limited contact with them. I was able to get my father to put his information down for the FAFSA form. He makes barely enough to support himself but because of a divorce with my mother recently, my EFC went up from money he was court ordered to be given to pay for court charges.
    I’ve been told to make an appeal, but I’m not quite sure what to do. In 2009 I only had a job for several months and had to quit because of family issues and medical reasons and wasn’t able to have a job again until February of this year. I am homeless and living from place to place, so I have no bills or anything to submit. I’m just not sure what I can do.

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on November 10, 2011 at 9:36 am:

      If you can provide documentation of your homelessness, you qualify to submit your FAFSA as independent. You should make an appointment to talk with a financial aid officer at your school and they will be able to help you with their appeals process if you need it.

      Reply To This Comment
  5. Violet says on November 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm:

    My sister is considered as an independent student for FAFSA, but she still lives at home and my parents provide more than half of her expenses. Can I still count her on my FAFSA as part of the household number?

    Reply To This Comment
  6. Joe says on November 3, 2011 at 8:32 am:

    I am trying to prove my father’s death and I have no way of proving this, manily because my mom or anyone knows when or where he was burried. We found out by his mom, who dose not talk to us. But i am trying to file for fafsa and cant only because i cant prove this, the school is asking for some sort of proof but i cant seem to find any? what to do??

    Reply To This Comment
  7. Mariah says on November 3, 2011 at 8:28 am:

    I am 19 about to be 20 and i am moving out in the summer , well more like getting kicked out by the summer, 2012 and i am currently getting a full grant and this is under my mom’s Tax papers, i want to know what i can do to still get Fafsa next year, from what i am reading i have to be 24 to get this agian?? or If i clam myself as a independent and or what do i do to prove i am living on my own and being kicked out but i do not want to stop my grants.

    Reply To This Comment
  8. alysha says on October 26, 2011 at 3:28 pm:

    I moved in with my aunt after high school. I am 18 yrs old and she will claim me on her taxes. Do I use her income for my FASA since I receive no cash benifits from my parents an I do not work? I am already in Jr college and paid cash for this year.

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on November 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm:

      No, you cannot include a relative’s information unless they legally adopted you. Read “Appealing your FAFSA Dependency Status” to see if you can appeal your status. This would allow you to only include your information on the FAFSA. For more information, you should contact your financial aid office.

      Reply To This Comment
  9. Morgan says on October 26, 2011 at 10:01 am:

    I am 21 years old and had a baby 6 months ago. she was born with a rare heart defect and passed away when she was 2.5 months old. am i still considered an independent student even though i cannot claim a deceased child on my taxes? also, are there any grants or scholarships for parents who have lost a child?

    Reply To This Comment
  10. alyssa says on October 25, 2011 at 12:35 am:

    iam 18years old and living with my boyfriend and his family, my mom only pays my phone bill but his mom dont claim me on her taxes my mom does but iwant to claim myself for finacial aid can i or should i wait till my boyfriend finds a job and claimes me on his taxes

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on October 25, 2011 at 7:51 am:

      @Alyssa- Being a dependent on taxes does not affect your financial aid status. You can be someone’s dependent for tax purposes and file as independent for FAFSA if you meet one of the qualifications. From how it sounds, you may not be able to file the FAFSA as independent, but you should check with your financial aid office to make sure.

      Reply To This Comment
  11. kj says on October 19, 2011 at 1:27 am:

    i am living on my own with my bf. Both me and him go half and half on all expenses and i have a baby. Will i be eligible for financial aid?. I get no help at all from my parents. I am 20 yrs old.

    Reply To This Comment
  12. Gloria says on October 5, 2011 at 4:18 pm:

    Hello,
    I am 19 years old and is considered as an international student. I am under my parents who do not have US citizenship while I have it (I have dual-citizenship). I got no help from my parents to pay my college tuition, because I got loans to pay for it. Therefore, I like to change my status as an independent (college) student. Is it possible to do?

    Reply To This Comment
  13. mharrie says on October 1, 2011 at 6:57 pm:

    I’m 19 years old and is currently attending college, my dad who was my legal guardian just passed three months ago. He was the sole provider and I was able to attend school through his income. I’m wondering if there’s any programs/resouces to help me to be able to continue my education and possibly help me with housing?

    Reply To This Comment
  14. Jimmy says on September 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm:

    I have applied for and recieved stafford loans in the past and my school always released the whole amount in 2 disbursments in one semester. This semester nothing has change except I am a sophmore now, I was approved for my loans and am recieving the loans in 4 disbursments slit over 2 semesters. Can my school do this? From everything I have read I have to give them written notice to hold any portion of my student loans after my tuition is paid. Is this legal? Should they disburse all the money to me in the same semester since I have to pay the intrest on these loans? I want my money what should I do?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 30, 2011 at 9:13 am:

      @Jimmy- Yes, this is typical at most schools – funds are usually disbursed per semester, as the Department of Education releases the funds to the school. Interest will not start accruing on the second portion of your loan until it is disbursed to your school in the spring. It seems that your financial aid office simply changed their method of disbursement, but you should contact the office directly for more information.

      Reply To This Comment
  15. jessy says on September 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm:

    my parents say i must pay for my own schooling, and im under the age of 24. why is it so hard for me to get financal aid?

    Reply To This Comment
  16. Tomas says on September 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm:

    I am a 16 yr old, senior in high school. I will be claiming my baby sister as a dependent on my taxes for this year, does this qualify me to file as an independent student on the 2011-2012 FAFSA?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 27, 2011 at 8:05 am:

      @Thomas – If you provided more than 50% of her support this past year (which includes housing, food, medical bills etc.), then you would be considered independent for FAFSA purposes.

      Reply To This Comment
  17. Summer says on September 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm:

    Hi,
    Im about to move in with my father who is going through a divorce, and is about to start drawing disability due to illness. As a minor however, I was claimed on my mother’s taxes, who made just enough money to where i didnt qualify. Now that my dad is drawing disabilty and I will be moving in with him, even though I am no longer a minor, is there anyway I will qualify for Financial Aid if I apply next semester?
    Thanks!

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 26, 2011 at 7:58 am:

      @Summer – In the case where a student resides with both parents in a year, you will need to report the finances of whomever you spent the majority of time with through the year. This means that if, in the past 12 months, you lived with your mother for more than 50% of the time, you will still need to use her financial information.

      Reply To This Comment
  18. ashley wieland says on September 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm:

    So, let me get this right, I have to be 24, before I can file independently?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm:

      @Ashley – Yes. Students are considered dependent until the age of 24 unless they meet any of the requirements for independent status listed in this article.

      Reply To This Comment
  19. Nina says on September 19, 2011 at 8:39 am:

    If I am under my parents health insurance but I’ve lived on my own in another state for a year am I considered independent?

    Reply To This Comment
  20. Mary says on September 12, 2011 at 3:04 am:

    Hello, I am 21 years old and I live on a different state with my parents. I currently live with my boyfriend and his mom and I pay for my own expenses. My parents did not claimed me in their taxes and I’m not married or in the military, but I was wondering if I am considered as a dependent? Do I still need my parent’s income tax when I apply for FAFSA?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 12, 2011 at 10:53 am:

      Yes, if you are still under the age of 24, you must provide your parents’ financial information. Tax dependency has nothing to do with FAFSA dependency, so for FAFSA purposes, you would still be considered dependent.

      Reply To This Comment
  21. susie says on September 6, 2011 at 7:09 pm:

    My mom is learning disabled n recieves ssi. when we filled out fafsa the form seeing zero as income skipped letting us checkmark the ssi box. not sure if thats important if everything still equals zero money. she is suppose to fill out the parent plus form on the staffford loan but it wants her to certify shes a professional student or a graduate, the only thing mom graduated from is high school. Is that what they mean? my financial advisor wont get back to me.I gather she’s busy. I need help

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 7, 2011 at 8:07 am:

      Hi Susie,

      I believe the SSI box that you checked refers to Supplemental Security Income. The FAFSA usually refers to Social Security Disability Income as SSDI – This is probably the cause of the confusion, since non-taxable SSDI does not need to be reported on FAFSA.

      Reply To This Comment
    • Brandon clukey says on September 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm:

      Hi Susi how are you [hunny] I am strugling butI need
      to live thrugh it take it as it comes. Im into
      getting my P.H.D IN THETICAL PHISICS. I’m 24 althoe
      I am disabled I hold interesting ideas in my head

      Reply To This Comment
  22. Patrice Thompson says on August 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm:

    My parents just recently informed me that I am on my own with my college expenses. Because of this I had to decline a Parent PLUS Loan and was forced to apply for a private loan. I am 18 years old, first year in college. Am I qualified to file independent next semester?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on September 2, 2011 at 10:23 am:

      Unfortunately, no. Students whose parents refuse to help with college expenses do not automatically qualify as independent. If there is an extenuating circumstance, you can often appeal, but this is usually restricted to students in extreme circumstances. You should contact your financial aid office if you believe you can make a case for an appeal.

      Reply To This Comment
  23. kacarr says on August 13, 2011 at 1:24 am:

    I am 27 and applying for FASFA for the first time. I am recently married and confussed about the Tax portion on the for. It is asking for out tax info for last year but we werent married last year… Do I just just mine?

    Reply To This Comment
  24. Tamara says on August 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm:

    My friend is trying to apply for student loans as an independent and he was denied for it because according to the office, he did not match up with the VA standards since he wasn’t a veteran since he did not get deported. He went into the military when he was 17, so in order to do that he had to be emancipated. He was only in basic training for about 3 months and then he got an honorable discharge for his knee and flat feet. He has his discharge papers in order and they keep denying him. He can only get student loans if he files as a dependent, and he does not want to do that. His dad came down to the financial aid office and straightened things out, but once my friend came back down to the office by himself a week later, they denied him again. What I am asking is if he is considered an veteran in those circumstances, is able to file as independent?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Student Loan Guru says on August 17, 2011 at 9:08 am:

      In order to file as an independent as a veteran, your friend must have both served in active duty and been released under a condition that was not dishonorable. It seems that since he did not serve in active duty, the financial aid office would be correct in denying this.

      However, if he was an emancipated minor as determined by a court, and can provide the documentation, this should be sufficient grounds to file as independent.

      Reply To This Comment
  25. eliiza says on August 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm:

    As a college student, age 21, whom last tax year did not work, or worked only one month, not making enough money to file or pay taxes. (well, do i have to file if i did not make over a certain amount), (do i have to file, so I have something to refer to for fafsa), is best speaking from a financial aid point to claim myself? I live in an apt., and pay for all living expenses myself. I am only on my parents health insurance. Does it make it more helpful for my parents to claim me or for me to claim myself on my taxes, when filling out FASFA info? The year befor I worked much more and filed myself and they did not claim me. Also, my parents are divorced. My father does not contribute. My mother is disabled, has a personal disability income, and does not pay taxes on this income. She is remarried, files jointly with my stepdad. I am on his health insurance with my brother and step siblings, which amounts to about 50.00or less/month expense for him, other than that I supported myself this past year from money i made previous year and student loans/grants. My step=dad and mom want to do whatever helps me out the best in ways of financial aid. Should they claim me or not? Thanks for your help!

    Reply To This Comment

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