Financial Aid

Do You Qualify for a Dependency Override on the FAFSA?

Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 27, 2019

Do You Qualify for a Dependency Override on the FAFSA?
Learn how you can qualify as an independent student.
The way that each family pays for college is unique. Many families split the cost or take on loans together. Others are fortunate enough to have parents foot the entire bill. At the same time, there are a great deal of families who believe that paying for college should be the sole responsibility of the student. While no way of paying for school is right or wrong, the federal government has the final say in how they believe families should pay. In their eyes, parents are responsible for paying for their child’s education, regardless of whether or not that happens to be the case. However, the federal government realizes that not every student has a typical relationship with their parents – or there may be circumstances at play that make a child completely independent from their parents. That’s why the federal government has made rules for what they refer to as an “independent student.” An independent student must:
• Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year;
• Be an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, in foster care or was a ward of the court when 13 years or older;
• Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or serving on active duty for other than training purposes;
• Be a graduate or professional student;
• Be a married individual;
• Have legal dependents other than a spouse;
• Be an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship;
• Be a homeless youth;
• Be a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of other unusual circumstances. There are times, though, when a student may not meet the above criteria – or be able to show on the FAFSA that they meet these specifics. In that case, students need to reach out directly to the financial aid offices of the colleges to which they plan to apply. Financial aid officers can discuss whether or not a student may qualify for a “dependency override.”
This status enables a student to become independent on the FAFSA without meeting some of the above criteria. Rather, students that qualify for a dependency override may have a circumstance similar to those below: • Parents are incarcerated
• Fleeing an abusive parent/guardian
• Parents’ whereabouts are currently unknown
• Unaccompanied youth and at risk of becoming homeless
• Experiencing some combination of the aforementioned circumstances or something more What you should know about going into dependency override conversations is that qualifying for a dependency override is rare. According to FinAid, only 2% of students actually meet the requirements for a dependency override. However, don’t let that keep you from trying. If your circumstances may merit consideration, have an open and honest conversation with a financial aid officer from your school as soon as possible. Always remember that these professionals, and the system itself, are designed to help students pay for school, to make their dreams of graduating from college a reality.

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Kathryn Knight Randolph

Associate Content Editor

Kathryn Knight Randolph is the Associate Content Editor at Fastweb. She has 17 years of higher education experience, working first as an Admissions Officer at DePauw University before joining Fastweb. In b...

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