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FAFSA: Dependent or Independent Student

When filling the FAFSA, you’ll have to determine your “dependency status.” This doesn’t mean how much of a free spirit you are. In the context of the FAFSA, dependent students are financially supported by their parents, whereas independent students are living a more independent financial life. (If you’ve ever filled out a W-4 tax form for a job, this definition of “dependent” will be familiar to you.)

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The FAFSA includes questions that will help you determine if you are a dependent or independent student. These questions change very little from year to year and are easily accessible on the FAFSA website. Below are a few of the questions:

  • Are you married?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran?
  • Do you now have – or will you have – children (or other dependents other than children or a spouse) who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1st of this year and June 30th of the next?
  • Are you legally an emancipated minor?

If you answer yes to any of the dependency questions found on the FAFSA, you are an independent student. If you answered no to all the questions, you are a dependent student. Independent students get to skip just one step in the FAFSA filing – they do not have to report their parent’s economic information on the form. Dependent students will have to fill out this part of the form, which will involve them getting that information from their parents. But more likely than not, your parents will already be helping you fill out your FAFSA. After all, if your parents are paying for your college education, then the financial aid received from the government through the FAFSA will help their bottom line!

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