Q: I am trying to make a case for a dependency override in regard to one of my parents; can you clarify the definition of abandonment for my argument? I have had contact with this parent, but many of my attempts at contact have been ignored. I’ve also had no support from them for years. I was wondering if this constitutes as grounds for the argument of abandonment alone, or if this needs to be a case of no support and no contact for at least a year.
First things, first. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) even though you do not have your parent’s financial information. The FAFSA has made it easy for students who are applying for financial aid to indicate that they do not have any information from their parents.
IMPORTANT FAFSA NOTIFICATION
After you have indicated that you don’t have their information, you will be able to select from a dropdown menu that best explains your special circumstance. If none of the scenarios match yours, simply select that you still can’t provide your parent information.
At this point, you will only qualify for an unsubsidized student loan. This is why it is paramount that you follow-up on the next step.
After you submit your FAFSA, immediately contact the financial aid office for the college you plan to attend. They will be the professionals you speak to about a dependency override. You will have to explain your situation, and they will likely require documentation of your statement. Gather statements attesting to your situation from a third party (i.e. not a relative), like a mentor or coach, high school guidance counselor, or pastor.
Q: My son is a rising senior, and my husband and I have been going through a difficult divorce since 2019. As of now, my son’s father refuses to participate in the financial aid process, and contacting him for his involvement may put my son in an unsafe situation. My son has been awarded his own attorney in family court who can attest to this situation. How can we articulate our circumstances so that my son can complete the FAFSA and be awarded financial aid? He is an excellent student who has pursued a path of high academic rigor.
A. Fortunately, most institutions require a CSS Financial Aid Profile in addition to the FAFSA. The CSS Profile provides further clarification on financial aid circumstances, and provides a more in-depth look at family particulars. Colleges can use this form in addition to the FAFSA in order to generate financial aid packages.
In the Special Circumstances of the CSS Profile, you can request that the institution waive the requirement to include the father’s financial information. The college would then request to see additional documentation from family court, if needed.
For families that are experiencing separation or divorce, the College Board has put together this helpful section on completing the CSS Profile.
Q: A student was flagged as an Auto Zero EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and SNT (Simplified Needs Test). The student also has a child, which makes them qualify as an independent student. Does this mean the school should NOT ask for a state regarding their income? Or ask how they are able to support their child with no income or government assistance listed on the FAFSA?
A: A student with children is considered independent when he or she is providing more than half of the support for the child – or children. Unfortunately, having a child, does not automatically make a student independent on that basis alone.
In that case, the school has the right to ask for documentation regarding proof of where financial support comes from for that particular child.
Q: My husband and I have been separated for five years. We live in different states, and the kids live with me. When we file our taxes, I file as “Head of Household,” and he files as “Married Filing Separately.” Because of how we file, our son’s financial aid is on hold. What is the correct filing status for us?
A: The correct filing status for each of you is: “Married Filing Separate.” In the case of separation, one parent can’t claim “Head of Household” tax status. This is why the financial aid office has your son’s financial aid on hold. They will not release his financial aid until the correct forms are filed. In the future, you also both need to agree on who will claim the children on each tax return.
Q: I have been trying to apply for financial aid through the FAFSA, but it will not recognize me as an independent student. I’m working full time and paying for my own apartment as well as my bills. The college is still requesting my parents’ income, and if I do not provide it, they will not issue me any financial aid. I have not been in contact with my father for quite some time. I cannot afford college on my own.
A: Unfortunately, the federal government views paying for college as the responsibility of the parents, even though thousands of students have the same experience that you have described. You can only qualify as an independent student on the FAFSA if you are at least 24 years of age, married, on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, financially supporting dependent children, an orphan (both parents deceased), a ward of the court, or an emancipated minor. If you cannot provide parent information on the FAFSA, your only option for federal financial aid is through the Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan program.
You could also talk to the parent that you are currently in contact with to at least provide their financial information. Explain to them that including their financial information on the FAFSA in no way obligates them to pay for college. It simply allows you to qualify for financial aid.
After completing the FAFSA, you can also talk with your financial aid office at your college about a financial aid appeal. Through this process, you can provide documentation that supports the fact that you need further assistance to pay for college. A financial aid appeal may allow the college to grant you more financial aid.
If you do not receive more financial aid, it may be time to consider attending a community college that is either free or low-cost, until you can achieve independent status by turning 24. At that point, you can continue your education at your first choice college with the help of financial assistance from the federal government.
Q: I was wondering how the FAFSA works when filing as a student. My parents claim me as a Dependent on their taxes; however, they do not pay for any of my schooling. Is there a way I can qualify for more financial aid, besides the unsubsidized student loan?
A: Given that your parents make too much money for you to qualify for financial aid, your options are to either find a part-time job or search for scholarships in order to pay for college. Every year, many students find themselves in your shoes, and though paying for your own college experience is amazing, the federal government views it as a parents’ responsibility to cover those costs. Therefore, the fact that you pay for everything on your own is not enough reason to award you more financial aid.
You can actually find a job on campus, which will be more flexible with your student schedule. Or you can find a part time job in the same location that you attend college. Finally, there are many opportunities that actually allow you to earn income from your dorm room. Check them out on Fastweb.
Chances are, you may have paused your college scholarship search after you graduated from high school. The good news is that there are so many scholarship opportunities for college students as well. Continue to make your scholarship search a priority. The more you apply to, the better your chances of winning. Any scholarship money earned is less money that you’ll have to borrow in order to pay for college. You can start – or resume – your scholarship search at Fastweb.
If you have financial aid questions or concerns, Finaid.org is a helpful resource. Check out their “Answering Your Questions” section to see if your concern has already been addressed, or to ask a new question.