Cancel Forgot Password?

Independent Status and Federal Student Aid

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Most of us spend our entire childhood dreaming about the day we'll be independent. No rules, no parents making the decisions, and all the freedom in the world! Eighteen is seen as the golden year of independence. When it comes to federal financial aid, however, the word "independent" is used a little differently.

Independent status vs. dependent status
Your Expected Family Contribution (the amount you'll have to put toward your education) is directly affected by whether or not you're the only one paying for it. Independent students don't have to factor in a family contribution when requesting federal student aid — only a personal one — so their awards are generally greater in dollar value. Sounds great, right? Who wouldn't want to be independent? Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as it sounds.

The federal government sets very strict guidelines defining independence for the purposes of allocating federal student aid. Why? The basic assumption of the Federal Methodology, used to calculate need, is that it's the responsibility of a student — and their family — to contribute toward college costs as much as possible. If every student could claim themselves an independent, then every family would be off the hook.

Independent status criteria
So who is independent? Gaining independent status right out of high school is actually quite difficult. To qualify for federal financial aid purposes, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have a dependent
  • Be a veteran
  • Be married
  • Be at least 24 years of age
  • Be an orphan or ward of the court
  • Have obtained a bachelor's degree

 

Effect of status on federal student aid

Even if your status is dependent, it does not mean that you don't qualify at all for aid. You may still qualify for aid such as the federal Pell Grant, federal work study, or the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). It just means that your parents' potential contributions will be counted as part of the formula used to calculate financial need.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

More articles by this author
Petersons's can help you find scholarships!
  • 5 thousand scholarship providers
  • 1.5 million awards available
  • $10 billion worth of awards
Answer a few questions to get started
1What type of student are you?
2Are you currently in high school?
3Will you study full or part time?
4What type of institution?
0 Scholarships Found


Colleges you might like...

St. Thomas University
Miami Gardens, FL
  • Type Private
  • Setting Suburban
  • Size 1,035 students
  • In-State $26,370
  • Out-of-State $26,370
  • Acceptance Minimally Difficult
View Full School Profile
Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, NY
  • Type Private
  • Setting Urban
  • Size 3,149 students
  • In-State $42,866
  • Out-of-State $42,866
  • Acceptance Very Difficult
View Full School Profile
  • Type Public
  • Setting Suburban
  • Size 19,217 students
  • In-State $8,396
  • Out-of-State $21,874
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile

Advanced Search Options

Search your needs below, and view information about the schools that meet those needs by clicking "Search."
Step 1: Select Subject Area(s)
Step 2: Select Major(s) that Interest You
Complete step 1 before selcting a major
Step 3: Select Degree Level
Search

Forgot Your Password?

To reset your password, simply enter your email address in the field below and click the Reset Password button. You will receive an email with a link and instructions to reset your password.

Check your email.

Please check your email and click on the link provided in the message to reset your password.