The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, can be a confusing application, especially when determining independent or dependent student status. The questions regarding parents will require extensive input from the individual parents. The questions are used to determine the amount of aid for which the student is eligible.

Determining Dependency

Dependency is determined using a combination of factors. A student under the age of 24 may be considered a dependent if she is not married and has no children of her own. An active duty member or veteran of the armed forces is considered an independent regardless of age. If the student's parents are living or if the student was legally adopted, he is considered a dependent. A student whose parents are divorced should use the information for the parent she lived with most in the year leading up to filing for aid.

Basic Parental Information

The FAFSA asks a few simple questions about the individual parents. Marital status and the date of marriage, divorce or separation are required. Each parent's social security number, last name, first initial and date of birth are also required, even if the parents are divorced or separated. The number of people living in the household includes the parents, the student and any other children or people living in the house who receive more than half of their support from the parents. In order for the school to determine residency status of the student, the parents' state of legal residence and length of time in that state is necessary.

Basic Income and Federal Programs

The parents are required to answer questions about their income. Both parents are required to supply their information if they are still married. In cases of divorce or separation, the primary parent is required to submit his information only. The FAFSA will ask questions to determine which form was filed for federal taxes, the adjusted gross income, income tax and exemptions for the parent. Questions about federal programs, such as supplemental security income, food stamps, reduced school lunches, temporary assistance for needy families and supplemental nutrition, are used to determine aid eligibility.


The FAFSA supplies three worksheets to help parents complete the form. The first worksheet will determine credits earned on the federal tax return, such as the earned income credit, additional child tax credit, welfare and untaxed social security benefits. The second worksheet determines other income and pensions, such as tax-deferred pensions, savings plans, tax-exempt income and child support received. This form also covers untaxed portions of housing, food and other living expenses received by the parents. The final worksheet for parents will determine all of their assets and investments, including cash on hand in checking and savings accounts, as well as the net worth of investments and businesses. Taxable earnings gained through need-based employment programs and student grants are factored into this worksheet.

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