The Department of Education requires all students to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid before they can get federal money for education, such as Pell grants, work study and Stafford loans. The FAFSA recognizes two statuses on the application: dependent and independent. Dependent students must report a parent's income and finances in addition to their own, while independent students only need to report their own financial information. Only certain types of students may file as an independent on the FAFSA.
Determine your dependency status using FAFSA's dependency status worksheet. If you are married, an orphan, a veteran, a graduate or professional student, have dependents, or are at least 24 years of age in the year for which you are seeking financial aid, you can file as an independent.
Ask the financial aid office on campus for a waiver if you do not meet the FAFSA's guidelines for independence. Only extreme cases, such as abandonment or abuse, qualify for a waiver. A parent's unwillingness or inability to provide information for the FAFSA or you living on your own during your education will not usually meet the standards for a waiver.
Apply online at FAFSA's website and fill out information similar to FAFSA's dependency worksheet. If you fit FAFSA's criteria, this will set up the application as an independent application. Check with your financial aid office to see if they want you to include basic parental information such as names and addresses, even if you do not have to provide financial information.
Submit any documentation requested by the school to prove your independent status. Documents can include proof of marriage, copies of tax returns or copies of paperwork from a court declaring you emancipated from your parents.
If you file as an independent on the FAFSA and are not eligible, you must pay back any financial aid and could be subject to additional fines, charges and loss of financial aid privileges.
Usha Dadighat has been writing since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Science in computer science and a minor in psychology from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in December 2010. She currently works as a software development engineer and has extensive technical writing experience.