Am I a Dependent or Independent Student?
Whens students are applying for need-based financial aid through the Free Application for Student Aid (more commonly known as the FAFSA), they will need to determine whether they are a dependent student or an independent student.
For the purposes of the FAFSA, the major distinction between these two designations is that dependent students will be considered for financial aid in the context of their family’s financial situation. Independent students are considered by financial aid in the context of their personal financial situation.
As you can imagine, many students do not have significant financial resources so could be eligible for lots of financial aid. Because of this, there is a rather strict definition of what constitutes an independent student.
What is the criteria to be an independent student?
An independent student meets one of the following criteria:
- At least 24 years old
- A graduate or professional student
- A veteran or current member of the armed services
- An orphan or ward of the court
- Someone with legal dependents other than a spouse
- An emancipated minor
- Someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
Unless you meet one of the above criteria of being an independent student, you will be considered a dependent student and will need to complete the FAFSA as such.