FAFSA Guide

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Married

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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Married

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If your parents are married, you should submit financial information for both of them to the FAFSA. If your parents refuse to pay for college or submit information for the FAFSA, you can’t be considered independent of your parents, and you still have to submit their information. There are very few situations in which you can get a dependency override, such as situations of abuse, neglect, incarceration or unknown whereabouts.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for students with married parents

  1. In Step 4 (Parent), state that your parents’ marital status is “married.”
  2. Fill out the FAFSA with both parents’ income and assets.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers
Although some schools don’t like to say “contact the financial aid office for more info” (because of the volume of questions) I feel that this is the only real way to judge a single student’s situation and give advice accordingly. For this reason, I would just tell a student to submit their application as best they can and contact their school’s office. A lot of students think that not fully completing the FAFSA is the same as not turning it in, but it’s not! Its best to submit it, even if some questions were skipped or financial figures were estimated.

— Marco Siliezar, Financial Aid Analyst at California State University’s California Maritime Academy

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents Were Never Married

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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents Were Never Married

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Biological parents who were never married and don’t live together are treated similarly to parents that have been divorced. One parent, referred to as the “custodial parent”, will complete the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the parent you have lived with the most in the past 12 months.

If your custodial parent receives child support or alimony, you must list that as income on the FAFSA.

If your parents were never married but live together, then you must provide information for both parents.

Steps for Filling Out the FAFSA if your parents were never married

  1. In Step 4 (Parent), state that your parents’ marital status is “single.”
  2. Determine which of your parents is your “custodial parent.” The custodial parent is likely to be the higher earner.
  3. Fill out the FAFSA with your custodial parent’s income and assets.
  4. Do not include your “non-custodial” parent in your reported household size unless they live with you and receive more than 50% of their financial support from your custodial parent.
  5. Report financial support you receive from your “non-custodial” parent under the category of untaxed income.
  6. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols. They may ask you to fill out a non-custodial parent form.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

The custodial parent for federal student aid purposes is the parent with whom you lived the most during the past 12 months. If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.

— Department of Education

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Divorced

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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Divorced

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The FAFSA treats divorced parents differently than married parents. If you have divorced parents, you should list the financial information for the parent you have lived with most in the past 12 months. This parent is known as your “custodial parent”.
If your custodial parent is remarried as of when you submit your FAFSA, include your stepparent’s financial information as well.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for students with divorced parents

  1. Determine which parent is your custodial parent. If your parents have joint custody of you, the custodial parent is the parent you have spent the most time living with in the past 12 months.
  2. Fill out the FAFSA with your custodial parent’s information and your stepparent, if you have one.
  3. Include any child support or alimony paid to your custodial parent.
  4. When the FAFSA asks about your parents’ education level, they want you to answer for your birth parents or adoptive parents. Your stepparent is not considered your parent for these two questions.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

If your parents are divorced or separated, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If this parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions on the FAFSA about that parent and the person whom your parent married (your stepparent). If you lived the same amount of time with each divorced parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent 12 months that you actually received support from a parent.

— Department of Education

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: I am a U.S. Citizen, But My Parents are Undocumented Immigrants

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Filling Out the FAFSA: I am a U.S. Citizen, But My Parents are Undocumented Immigrants

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All U.S. citizens are eligible for federal financial aid, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. If you are a citizen but your parents are undocumented immigrants, you should fill out the FAFSA and include their financial information.

If you fill in the parental information using a fake social security number or one that is only valid for work purposes, the application will be rejected. If your parent does not have a social security number, use 000-00-0000 as his or her social security number.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for citizens with undocumented immigrant parents

  1. For the parental information section, include your parent’s financial information.
  2. Write 000-00-0000 as your parent’s social security number.
  3. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

You can still submit the FAFSA if your parents are undocumented. When the application asks for your parents’ social security numbers, please enter 000-00-0000.

— Marco Siliezar, Financial Aid Analyst at California State University’s California Maritime Academy

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: I am an Undocumented Immigrant

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Filling Out the FAFSA: I am an Undocumented Immigrant

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Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for federal funds, but you can still get aid from your university. Some states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain in-state tuition, and undocumented students are eligible for some private scholarships as well. Some schools even offer aid specifically for undocumented immigrants. Berkeley offers $1 million in a scholarship fund earmarked for undocumented immigrants.

Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Washington, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Kansas and Maryland (only for community colleges) have state laws allowing undocumented immigrants who have attended 3+ years of high school in the state to qualify for in-state tuition. Many more states are considering legislation on the issue, so ask your university if you are eligible for in-state tuition.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for undocumented immigrants

  1. Do not complete the FAFSA before talking to your school’s financial aid office.
  2. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols. They may ask you to fill out the FAFSA with a Social Security number of 000-00-0000 to obtain an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which they may use to determine your aid award. Some states have passed their own version of the Dream Act, so they may ask you to fill out their state Dream Act paperwork instead of a FAFSA.
  3. If you are applying to a school that offers in-state tuition, ask the financial aid office if you can qualify for the reduced in-state tuition rate.
  4. Apply for private scholarships and grants.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

Unfortunately, federal financial aid is unavailable for undocumented students. There are some states that offer in-state tuition and some grants even for undocumented immigrants. Please contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend for more information. There are also some scholarships that do not require legal residency status.

— Marco Siliezar, Financial Aid Analyst at California State University’s California Maritime Academy

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: I am Legally Emancipated

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Filling Out the FAFSA: I am Legally Emancipated

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The FAFSA can be difficult for non-traditional families to navigate. Students who are/were emancipated minors, as determined by a court, do not have to include their parents’ financial information on the FAFSA.
Any support received from friends or relatives should be reported on Worksheet B as income for the student.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for emancipated minors

  1. Include your personal income and assets on the FAFSA.
  2. In Step 3 (Student), check “yes” for question 53 (As determined by a court in your legal state of residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?).
  3. Skip all of Step 4 (Parent).
  4. Report any financial support received from legal guardians or foster parents on Worksheet B as personal income.
  5. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

Students who are deemed to be an emancipated minor (youth who has obtained a court order legally releasing you from control of your parent or guardian) have more access to financial aid. Emancipated minors are considered independent students for financial aid purposes, and students will potentially have to provide documentation of their status to the financial aid office at their school of choice.

— Amy Cable, Director of Financial Aid at Mid-South Community College

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: Dependency Override

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Filling Out the FAFSA: Dependency Override

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The FAFSA can be difficult for students with non-traditional families. For students who find it impossible or unsuitable to put one parent’s financial information, such as in cases where a parent is abusive, neglectful, incarcerated or absent, universities can exercise their professional judgment and grant a dependency override to the student and disregard their parent’s information.

Filing for a dependency overrides consists of a lengthy process that varies across universities, and most schools require written evidence explaining the situation and why the student is unable to submit a parent’s financial information. Written evidence may include law enforcement documents, explanatory letters from counselors, social workers or clergy members or other relevant information that sheds light onto your special circumstances.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for students requiring a dependency override

  1. In Step 3 (Student), check “yes” for any applicable questions. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, FAFSA considers you to be an independent student, and you can skip Step 4 (Parent). If you cannot answer “yes” to any of these questions, you may need to apply for a dependency override with your university.
  2. FAFSA on the Web will ask whether you are able to provide information about your parents. Indicate that you have special circumstances that make you unable to provide this information.
  3. Submit the FAFSA without the information of the parent whose whereabouts you do not know. Although your FAFSA will be submitted, if you have not answered “yes” to the questions that determine independent student status (explained in Step 1), your FAFSA will not be fully processed. You need to contact your school regarding further steps.
  4. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols. They will likely ask you to fill out additional forms or submit letters from counselors or other parties who know your situation well.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

When a student is seeking a dependency override, they should remember that documentation is the most important part of any override. The common overrides allowed by the FAFSA are, age, marriage, children, military service, homelessness, foster care, legal guardianship, and emancipated minor. Other overrides allowed by schools are, if the student’s parents are in another country or otherwise estranged, and if the student left home to escape an abusive relationship. With these overrides the student must select on the FAFSA that they cannot provide parent information. The FAFSA will process as incomplete and the student will then need to follow up with the financial aid office of the institution to which they are applying to resolve the dependency issue.

— Michael Rogovin, Education Advisor at the American Student Assistance Center

Students who are unable to provide parent information on the FAFSA due to abuse, neglect or incarceration should contact the Financial Aid Office at the school of their choice.

— Amy Cable, Director of Financial Aid at Mid-South Community College

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: One of My Parents has Died

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Filling Out the FAFSA: One of My Parents has Died

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The FAFSA can be difficult for non-traditional families. For students with deceased parents, universities may require death certificates or other proof, and the financial aid application process may be emotionally difficult for grieving students.

For the FAFSA, do not report your deceased parent’s income.

If your deceased parent was your custodial parent and you are not financially dependent on your non-custodial parent, you may be eligible for a dependency override.
If your parent has died after you have submitted the FAFSA, contact your school immediately and let them know.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA if you have a deceased parent

  1. Submit financial information for your remaining parent, including their income and assets.
  2. Do not submit your deceased parent’s financial information, even if they died within the past year and you have their tax returns and financial documents.
  3. If your parent died after you submitted your FAFSA, submit a correction updating your information. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols. They are likely to ask you to submit a death certificate.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

Student with a deceased parent should contact the Financial Aid Office at the school of their choice.

— Amy Cable, Director of Financial Aid at Mid-South Community College

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: I Live With Legal Guardians or Foster Parents

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Filling Out the FAFSA: I Live With Legal Guardians or Foster Parents

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The FAFSA can be difficult for non-traditional families to navigate. Neither legal guardians nor foster parents are considered parents by the FAFSA, so you do not have to list their income and household size information on your FAFSA.

Unless your legal guardian or foster parents have legally adopted you, the FAFSA does not consider them to be your parents on the form. If they have legally adopted you, they are considered to be your parents, and you should include their information on the form.

If your parents are deceased, you have been legally emancipated, or you were a ward of the court at any time after the age of 13, the FAFSA considers you to be an independent student. You are likely to be considered an independent student if you live with legal guardians or foster parents.
Any support received from legal guardians or foster parents should be reported on Worksheet B as income for the student.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA if you live with legal guardians or foster parents

  1. In Step 3 (Student), check “yes” for any applicable questions, which are likely to be numbers 52 (At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court) or 54 (As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in a legal guardianship?).
  2. Skip all of Step 4 (Parent).
  3. Include your personal income and assets on the FAFSA.
  4. Report any financial support received from legal guardians or foster parents on Worksheet B as personal income.
  5. Contact your university’s financial aid office and explain your situation; see if they have university-specific advice or protocols.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

If you can’t provide information about your parents on the FAFSA, then please skip Steps 4 and 5, and go to Step 6. You can still submit your application without your parent’s information. Call the Financial Aid Office at the school you plan to attend once you submit the application and they will be happy to help you.
— Marco Siliezar

Financial Aid Analyst at California State University’s California Maritime Academy
The following people are not your parents unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

— Department of Education

FAFSA Guide

Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Same Sex Partners

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Filling Out the FAFSA: My Parents are Same Sex Partners

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The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional in June 2013, giving same-sex couples equal opportunity to participate in federal government programs such as Medicaid, military spousal benefits, and filing for financial aid for college. LGBT families were previously not recognized on the FAFSA and students were instructed to fill out the form as if their parents were divorced, listing the income and contributions of only one parent. Likewise, same-sex partners filling out the form could not list their spouse on the application, as their marriage was not recognized by the federal government.

Now students with married same-sex parents will list the contributions and income of both parents.

Steps for filling out the FAFSA for LGBT families

  1. Fill out the FAFSA with both your parents’ income and assets.
  2. You do not need to list both parents on the FAFSA if they do not live together or they are not both your legal parents. You are required to list a step-parent who is married to your legal parent. In Step 4 (Parent), state that your parents’ marital status is married if they are married.

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers

Advice from University Financial Aid Officers: For question #58 that asks about your parents’ marital status, FAFSA will now use gender neutral terms such as “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” to distinguish between parents.

— Marco Siliezar, Financial Aid Analyst at California State University’s California Maritime Academy