The FAFSA for the 2022-23 academic year will be available online beginning October 1, 2021. Since this application is required to determine eligibility for federal, state and institutional financial aid, it is important to complete it correctly. Here is a look at some of the FAFSA areas that often stump students (and their parents).
Who is eligible for federal student aid?
Most students are eligible to receive financial aid and student loans from the federal government to help pay for college or career school. Eligibility factors include:
- High school completion and enrollment in college.
- Social Security number.
- US. citizen or registered alien.
Am I a dependent student?
Dependent students are required to provide financial information for themselves and their parents, while independent students are only required to provide their own information. The FAFSA asks a series of questions that determine whether you are a dependent or independent student, including:
- Age: Will you be 24 or older by January 1, 2022?
- Marital status: Are you married, or separated but not divorced?
- Degree: Are you working toward a master’s or doctorate degree?
- Dependents: Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you? Do you have dependents (other than children or a spouse) that live with you, and receive more than half of their support from you?
- Military: Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training? Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
- Legal Status: At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court? Are you an emancipated minor or are you in a legal guardianship as determined by a court? Are you an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
If you answer NO to ALL of these questions, then you may be considered a dependent student and may be required to provide your parents’ financial information when completing the FAFSA form.
Who is my parent?
Dependent students are required to report parent information on the FAFSA. Although this might seem like an obvious question, it is not quite as straightforward as you might think for some students. In most cases, a “parent” is a legal (biological or adoptive) parent or stepparent, or a person that the state has determined to be your legal parent. If your parents are divorced or separated, how you fill out the FAFSA will depend on whether your parents live together or not.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent or parents; you must still report information about them. The following people are not your parents, unless they have legally adopted you:
- Widowed Stepparent
- Foster Parents
- Legal Guardians
- Older Brothers or Sisters
- Aunts or Uncles
As you complete the FAFSA, you will be asked whether you are able to provide information about your parents. If you cannot do so, you have the opportunity to indicate that you have special circumstances that make you unable to get your parents’ information. You will then be able to submit your application without entering data about your parents; however, you will then be required to contact the financial aid office at your colleges to determine your next step.
What if my family’s financial situation changed in 2021?
You are required to use information from your 2020 federal income tax returns to complete the FAFSA. If your family has suffered a substantial financial change in 2021 due to COVID, natural disaster, job loss, medical emergency, or other incident, you will need to document those changes and contact each college directly to update your current status.
CFAA is here to help with every step of the financial aid process, including walking through the entire FAFSA process. Set up a CFAA new client free strategy session to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.