Dependent vs. Independent Filing Status

To be considered independent for financial aid purposes, you must meet one of the following federal criteria:

  • You will be 24 years old by December 31, of the award year.
  • You are a graduate student.
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces or currently serving on active duty.
  • You are married at time of application.
  • You have legal dependents (other than your spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you.
  • You are a ward of the court, or both your parents are deceased.
  • You are an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence.
  • You were an unaccompanied youth who was determined homeless by your school district, US Department of Housing & Urban Development, or transitional living center.

In some rare cases, students who do not meet the criteria for independent status, as outlined above, can still be classified as independent. Generally this happens when there is an adverse family situation that is well documented by a social worker. If you feel your situation warrants special consideration regarding your dependency status, contact a financial aid counselor before completing the FAFSA.