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A Parent’s Guide to the FAFSA: Dependency Status

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



In this article, we will be walking you through the “Dependency Status” section of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. For more information on this topic, check out our article: The Ultimate Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA.


Student Marital Status


After completing the “School Selection” section of the FAFSA, you will proceed to the third section, “Dependency Status.” 


This section begins with questions about the student’s marital status. It is important here to remember that the FAFSA is asking about the marital status of the student, not the parents. 


If the student applying for the FAFSA is unmarried, they will select “Single” for this question. There will be a separate question about parent marital status later on in the “Parent Demographics” portion of the application. 


Student Dependents


The next page in the “Dependency Status” section is focused on dependents of the student. As with the previous page about student marital status, this page is asking about the student filing the FAFSA, not the student’s parents. 


If the student has children who will be supported by them during the FAFSA year, they should mark “yes” for the “Dependent Children” question. 


Additionally, if the student has any other dependents who will be supported by them during the FAFSA year, they will mark “yes” for the “Other Dependents” question. For the 2023-2024 FAFSA, the FAFSA year will be between July 1st, 2023 and June 30th, 2024. 


Student Additional Dependency Questions


After completing the questions about dependents, students will continue forward to the “Student Additional Dependency Questions” page. 


On this page, you are presented with several questions asking about special circumstances.  You should make sure to check the corresponding boxes to indicate whether the student is any of the following: on active duty in the U.S. armed forces, a veteran of the U.S. armed forces, a child of deceased parents, in foster care or a ward of the court, an emancipated minor, or under a legal guardian other than a parent or stepparent. 


Because these circumstances are rare, many applicants will select “none of the above” for this question. 


Student Homelessness


Next, you will move to the “Student Homelessness Filter Question.”  This question asks whether the student was homeless in the recent past.  After responding accordingly, select “Continue” to move on to the final page of this section, “Dependent Student Status.”


Dependent Student Status


On the “Dependent Student Status” page, you are able to view the student’s dependency determination based on the responses to the previous questions in this section. Students can either be considered “independent” or “dependent” for FAFSA purposes. 


For students who are considered dependent, you will then be asked about the student’s ability to provide information about their parents. Here, you can either indicate that they will provide parental information, or that you are unable to do so. 


After responding to this question, the “Dependency Status” section is now complete, and you can move forward to the next section of the FAFSA, “Parent Demographics.” 


Note that dependency status will impact the subsequent questions asked by the FAFSA, and thus, students considered “independent” will be asked some different questions than students considered “dependent.”


Still wondering how long it will take you to complete the FAFSA? Check out this article on CollegeVine.