Financial Aid

Why is Parental Information Required on the FAFSA?

Learn why and when parent information is necessary to complete the FAFSA.

Shawna Newman

October 25, 2022

Why is Parental Information Required on the FAFSA?
A dependent student will not qualify for federal student aid if parental information is not included on their FAFSA.
Why do we have to file the FAFSA when my daughter supports herself? My daughter has not lived with me or my husband for a year and a half while she’s been attending college. We do not support her financially; we do not pay for her education nor do we even send her money. She is completely self-sufficient, a fact of which we are very proud to claim! We will not be claiming her as dependent on our taxes this year because that is a true reflection of what occurred. Would we still need to file the FAFSA for her and if so, why? — Jennifer M. Federal law assumes that the parents have the primary responsibility for paying for their children's college education. In fact, parent contribution is the primary method most students use to pay for college. The federal government provides grants and other forms of college support only when the parents are incapable of paying for college, not when the parents are unwilling to pay for college.
If parents of a dependent student refuse to complete the FAFSA, the student will not qualify for federal student aid. This includes federal education loans from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, federal work-study, or federal grants like the Pell Grant or TEACH Grant.

Dependent Student vs. Independent Student

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) distinguishes between students who are dependent and students who are independent. Parents of a dependent student are required to submit their financial and demographic information on the FAFSA. Parents of an independent student are not required to complete the FAFSA. The definition of a dependent student for federal student aid purposes is different from the definition used on federal income tax returns. Whether the parents claim the student as a dependent on their income tax returns is irrelevant to the student's status as a dependent for federal student aid purposes. offers a worksheet to help families and students determine their FAFSA dependency status.

Can I apply for the FAFSA without my Parents?

A student can apply for the FAFSA, or without an accompanying FAFSA parent account, only if they are considered an independent student.

Independent Student

The current criteria for independent student status include whether the student is age 24 or older as of December 31 of the academic year.

Dependency Guidelines

A student can also be independent on the FAFSA if they are:
  • Married
  • Have a dependent other than a spouse
  • Are a veteran of the US Armed Forces, or have served on active duty in the Armed Forces for other training purposes
  • An orphan, in foster care or are considered a ward-of-the-court
  • An emancipated minor or in a court-ordered legal guardianship
  • Are considered homeless unaccompanied youth
  • Graduate and professional students are also considered independent. All other students are dependent.

    Dependent Student

    Most unmarried freshmen who are under the age of 24 and who are not veterans are considered dependent students on the FAFSA. There are some cases where a student can be granted a dependency override.

    How to Get a Dependency Override

    A student supporting themselves is not considered an unusual circumstance. College financial aid administrators may perform a dependency override to grant independent student status to an otherwise dependent student, but only in unusual circumstances. Unusual circumstances can include an abusive family environment or when both parents are incarcerated, institutionalized or otherwise incapacitated. has published guidance in the Application and Verification Guide that indicates that college financial aid administrators may not grant students a dependency override because:
  • The student is self-sufficient
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent on their income tax returns
  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education
  • Parents refuse to complete the FAFSA or verification
  • None of the above scenarios, alone or in combination, is sufficient justification for a dependency override.

    What parent information is required for the FAFSA?

    If your student is considered a dependent student, your information is required to complete the FAFSA. This does not make you financially responsible for any federal student loans they decide to accept. Below is a list of parent information needed to complete the FAFSA:

    Parent’s FSA ID

    The parent filling out the FAFSA must have their own FSA ID.

    Marital status

    There are FAFSA rules on separated, divorced and remarried parents.

    Who is your primary parent?

    Household size

    Parent tax information recommends using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer your federal tax return information to the FAFSA.

    Parent bank statements and investments

    It is important to report all required assets on the FAFSA.

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