Sometimes the numbers on the FAFSA application don’t add up. Many students have parents with money, but that doesn’t mean their parents plan to help them pay for college. That leaves them with little to no financial aid, and they may end up racking up student loans to pay for their education. If this sounds like you, that’s not your only option. You can also become a FAFSA independent or an emancipated student. Emancipation for financial aid isn’t as complicated as it sounds. It can be as simple as filing a form and having your case reviewed by your college.

What Is a FAFSA Independent?

A FAFSA independent is a student who will not receive financial help from parents to pay for college. To qualify as a FAFSA independent, you must meet one or more of these criteria: 1) at least 24 years old, 2) an orphan or in foster care, 3) an armed forces veteran, 4) a graduate student, 5) married, 6) have legal dependents, 7) be emancipated, 8) be a homeless youth or 9) have a financial aid administrator rule that you are independent.

Emancipation for Financial Aid

If you don’t qualify for one of the above reasons, becoming a legally emancipated student still may not be necessary. Emancipation for financial aid purposes may require legal action. Lawyers would have to get involved, and that costs money. You’re trying to become an independent because you don’t have money, so spending more money is counterintuitive. Instead, you should pursue the option of having a financial aid administrator rule that you are independent. This course of action will have the same effect as if you became an emancipated student but with much less hassle.

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Becoming an Independent Student

To start the process of becoming an independent student, visit your financial aid office. Your financial aid adviser will be able to help you with the details. He will most likely give you a dependency review form. Fill this out. Additionally, gather documentation that proves your circumstances as an independent student, and be prepared to provide an explanation.

If your application comes up for review, you may have to appear in front of the committee and explain your case. Many students do not qualify to have their status changed except in extreme circumstances, such as abuse or neglect. If you do not receive your status change, talk to your counselor about other options. She may be able to help you get a job or seek out other forms of financial aid.

About the Author

Rebecca Renner is a writer and editor out of South Florida. Her essays have been featured in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Glamour. She is working on a novel.