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FAFSA Information

This page provides information on how to complete the student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA form was designed to provide a picture of the family's financial strength. If a dependent student is applying for federal student aid to help pay for college, the parent's financial information is required on the FAFSA form. Providing information does not commit the parent to contributing anything toward the student's education; it is simply required for the assessment of the family's situation.
  • If student’s legal parents (student’s biological and/or adoptive parents, or parents as determined by the state [e.g., a parent listed on your birth certificate]) are married to each other, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
  • If the student’s legal parents are not married to each other and live together, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether the student’s parents are of the same or opposite sex.
  • If the student’s legal parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
  • If the student’s parents are divorced or separated? (see more information below)

 
  • Parents must include tax, income, and some asset information on the FAFSA form.
Assets not included in the financial aid calculation:
  • personal property,
  • annuities,
  • cash value of life insurance,
  • retirement accounts, and
  • 529 plans owned by people other than the student or parents.
The information reported by students and parents on fafsa.gov is encrypted (scrambled using a mathematical formula) so it is unreadable by anyone who might intercept it.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education does not sell student or parent information and does not share that information with any entities beyond those specified on the FAFSA form: the schools the student lists on the FAFSA form, the state agencies of the states in which those schools are located, and the state agency in the student's state of residence.

 
  • Students cannot be considered independent students just because the parent refuses to supply information for the FAFSA.
  • If the student submits their FAFSA form without parent information, the student will not receive an EFC.
  • Some state- or school-based aid programs look at the EFC in order to determine the student’s eligibility for their funds; because the student will not have an EFC, the student will not be considered for those aid programs. The student could be giving up a chance at many sources of aid.
  • Providing the parent’s information will not require the parent to support the student in any way, it will just help the student be considered for as many sources of financial aid as possible.

 
  • In this case, how the student fills out the FAFSA form depends on whether the student’s parents live together or not.
  • Keep the following in mind as you read this section:
    • For FAFSA purposes, married parents are separated if they are considered legally separated by a state, or if they are legally married but have chosen to live separate lives, including living in separate households, as though they were not married.
  • When two married persons live as a married couple but are separated by physical distance (or have separate households), they are considered married for FAFSA purposes.

 
  • If parents are divorced or separated and do not live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom the student lived more during the past 12 months.
    • If parent remarried and student has a stepparent, the stepparent’s information must be provided on the student’s FAFSA.
  • If student lived the same amount of time with each divorced or separated parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent 12 months that the student actually received support from a parent.
    • If parent remarried and student has a stepparent, the stepparent’s information must be provided on the student’s FAFSA.

 
  • If divorced parents live together, student will indicate their marital status as “Unmarried and both legal parents living together," and the student will answer questions about both of them on the FAFSA form.
  • If separated parents live together, student will indicate their marital status as “Married or remarried" (NOT “Divorced or separated"), and the student will answer questions about both of them on the FAFSA form.

 
All applicants for federal student aid are considered either “independent” or “dependent.”

Independent Student
If you answer YES to ANY of the questions below, then you may be an independent student. You may not be required to provide parental information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.   

Dependent Student
If you answer NO to ALL of the questions below, then you may be required to provide your parents’ financial information when completing the FAFSA form.
  1. Will the student be 24 or older by January 1st of the school year for which they are applying for financial aid? For example, if the student plans to start school in August 2021 for the 2021-22 school year, will the student be 24 by January 1, 2021 (i.e., was the student born before January 1, 1998)?
  2. Is the student married or separated but not divorced?
  3. Will the student be working toward a master’s or doctorate degree (such as M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.)?
  4. the student have children who receive more than half their support from the student?
  5. Does the student have dependents (other than children or a spouse) who live with them and receive more than half their support from the student?
  6. Is the student currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  7. Is the student a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
  8. At any time since the student turned age 13, were both of the student’s parents deceased, was the student in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court?
  9. Is the student an emancipated minor or is the student in a legal guardianship as determined by a court?
  10. Is the student an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

For more information, visit StudentAid.gov/dependency

 
Here are some tips for noncitizen parents and students:
  • If your parent does not have a Social Security number (SSN), you should enter all zeroes for him or her on the FAFSA form where it asks for that information. Do NOT enter a Taxpayer Identification Number in the SSN field.
  • If your parent does not have an SSN, he or she will not be able to create an FSA ID (which requires an SSN) and therefore will not be able to sign your FAFSA form electronically (either online or via the myStudentAid app).
    • From the online form, (you cannot print a signature page from the app), you will need to select the option to print a signature page when you get to the end of the application. Print the page, have your parent sign it, and then mail it to the address indicated so that your FAFSA form can be processed.
  • If your parent does not live in the U.S., select "Foreign Country" from the dropdown box for the question that asks about the parents' state of legal residence.
  • If your parents live and file taxes in a foreign country and don’t file U.S. taxes, you’ll have the opportunity to indicate that they have filed their taxes.
    • Then, when the FAFSA form asks whether your parents filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return, you should select “Yes."
    • Convert the amounts on the foreign tax return into U.S. dollars as directed by the FAFSA help and hints.
    • If your parents live in one of the Freely Associated States, they should enter the Amount of Wages Earned from their Freely Associated States tax form in the field where the FAFSA form asks for adjusted gross income.
  • If your parent does not file taxes at all, select “Not going to file" for the question that asks whether the parent(s) have filed taxes. Then you will be asked for information about how much your parent earned from work, rather than being asked for information about specific items on the tax form.
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