Whether you are considered independent or dependent when completing the FAFSA determines how your financial aid is calculated and the maximum amount in Stafford/Direct Loans you can borrow.
You may feel that you should be able to declare independent status because you live on your own, file your own taxes, or receive no support from your parents. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education is extremely strict with regard to determining dependency status.
Regardless of how much support you actually receive from your parents, you will be considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes unless at least one of the following criteria is met:
- Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
- Be an orphan, ward of the court, or was a ward of the court until the age of 18
- Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States
- Be a graduate or professional student
- Be married
- Have legal dependents other than a spouse
- Be an emancipated minor or an unaccompanied homeless youth
If you do not meet one of the above conditions, you must file your FAFSA as a dependent student and include your parents' information.