Home Financial Aid Tips Determining Dependency Status when You Apply for Federal Student Aid
Determining Dependency Status when You Apply for Federal Student Aid

Determining Dependency Status when You Apply for Federal Student Aid

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By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews, APUS

When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will come to a section that asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status.

It is important to understand that dependency status has a unique definition for Federal Student Aid (FSA) and it might differ from the conventional understanding of what being dependent or independent means. Essentially, that definition factors into whether or not information from your parent(s) is required on the FAFSA and the financial aid for which you could be eligible.

Here are the 10 questions that determine your dependency status:

1. Were you born before (date varies based on FAFSA Award Year)? The date will always be January 1 of the year that is 23 years from start of the Award Year. For example, on the 2018-19 FAFSA, the date will be January 1, 1995.

2. As of today, are you married? Or separated but not divorced? This question should be answered as of the day you complete the FAFSA.

3. At the beginning of the school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program? If you do not already have at least a bachelor’s degree, the answer will be “No.”

4. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training? If you are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee, are you on active duty for other than state or training purposes? If you are unsure of the answer, reach out to your direct military command.

5. Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces? If you were released under “dishonorable discharge,” you are not considered a veteran.

6. Do you now have – or will you have – children who receive more than half of their support from you between (date range of FAFSA Award Year)? For the 2018-19 Award Year, those dates would be July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. (Keep in mind that if you are pregnant and expect to have a child during this time for whom you will provide support, you may include that child as “Yes.”)

7. Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you, now or through (end of date range of FAFSA Award Year)? For the 2018-19 Award Year, this date would be June 30, 2019.

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

9. Has it been determined by a court in your state of legal residence that you are an emancipated minor or that someone other than your parent or stepparent has legal guardianship of you? This does not include individuals who are under the custody of a non-parent. The court documents must say “guardianship” and not “custody.”

10. At any time on or after (previous FAFSA Award Year start date), were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless? For the 2018-19 Award Year, the date would be July 1, 2017.

After answering these questions honestly, it is a simple process to determine whether you are an independent or dependent student for FSA purposes. If you can answer “Yes” to any of the above 10 questions, you are considered Independent. If you answered “No” to every question above, you are considered a Dependent.

Be sure to take your time filling out the FAFSA and provide complete answers to the information this form requests from you. If you have questions, contact the Financial Aid department.