Five Reasons a High School Senior Might Be Considered Independent on the FAFSA
Students under the age of 24 are generally considered dependent for financial aid purposes. The U.S. Department of Education requires parent information when determining financial aid eligibility for dependent students. However, there are situations when a high school senior may be considered independent and not required to provide parent information on the FAFSA. The following are some possible scenarios:
1.  Emancipated, in Legal Guardianship, Orphaned, in Foster Care, or a Ward of the Court   
If a student is an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship (or was upon turning age 18), as determined by a court in the student's state of legal residence, the student is considered independent.
Also, if both of the student's parents are deceased, the student was in foster care, or was a dependent ward of the court at any point when the student was 13 years or older, the student is considered independent.
2. Marriage
If the student is married on the day the FAFSA is signed, the student is considered independent. However, the student would need to include his or her spouse's information on the FAFSA .
3.  Children or Legal Dependents  
If the student has a child (or is expecting a child that will be born before the end of the award year) or a legal dependent that will receive more than half of his or her support from that student during the upcoming academic year, the student is considered independent .
4. Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
If, at any time after July 1, 2016 (for the 2017-2018 FAFSA), the student was determined to be an unaccompanied homeless youth by a school district homeless liaison, the director of an emergency shelter program funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program, the student is considered independent .
5. Special Circumstances
If the student does not meet any of the previous conditions but has special circumstances, the student should contact a financial aid administrator at the school the student is planning to attend. Examples of special circumstances include situations where the student's parents are incarcerated, the student has left home due to an abusive situation, or a student does not know where his or her parents are and is unable to contact them. Special circumstances do not include parent unwillingness to provide information on the FAFSA, parent refusal to pay for school, parent(s) not claiming the student as a dependent on a tax return, or a student simply not living with parents. 

When a student has special circumstances, a dependency override may be considered by a financial aid administrator on a case-by-case basis. Supporting documentation must be provided and typically originates from a third-party with knowledge of the student's unusual circumstances .
In all of the above circumstances, students should be prepared to provide documentation of their specific situation to the financial aid office. For additional information or other circumstances under which students may be considered independent, please contact a financial aid office or call FAME at 1-800-228-3734.
Want More Information?

For a more interactive experience on this topic, join us on Wednesday, February 8th at 10:00 a.m. for this month's free Wednesday Webinar: When It Comes to the FAFSA, Who's Considered Independent?

Connect with us!

The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) does not discriminate in the administration of any of its programs or in its employment practices on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, gender, religion, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, marital status or sexual orientation. FAME is an equal opportunity employer, provider and lender.

FAME provides links to other websites as a convenience and does not endorse or guarantee the content, accuracy or usability of such sites.