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Dependency Appeal Process

Who Is Considered A Dependent Or Independent Student?

Although you may consider yourself a self-supporting student - that is, you do not depend on your parents to support you or help finance your college education, you do not live in their home, and are not claimed on their income tax return - you do not automatically qualify as independent for financial aid purposes. The U.S. Department of Education has established very strict standards regarding the circumstances under which a financial aid office may authorize a change to a student’s dependency status.  The regulations require a student to demonstrate that circumstances have severed the relationship between the student and his/her parent(s) and left it irreparable and without chance of reconciliation.  A parent’s unwillingness or inability to financially contribute to the student’s education or to provide information does not qualify as “unusual circumstances.”  Also, a student’s desire to live on their own or move out after a falling out with their parent(s) does not qualify.  Typically, documented proof of physical and/or mental abuse or abandonment is needed to support the request.


In order to file your financial aid application as an independent student, you must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Be age 24 by Jan. 1 of the aid year
  • Be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces 
  • Be currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  • Be a graduate or graduate/professional student
  • Be married prior to filing and signing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Be an orphan or ward of the court
  • Have legal dependents other than a spouse
  • Be an emancipated minor or an unaccompanied homeless youth

See the FAFSA instructions for additional information on these criteria. If you do not meet one of the above conditions, you must file as a dependent student and include your parents' information on the FAFSA.

The only exception to the dependency rules stated above is in those rare situations where it can be proven that there is a total breakdown in the relationship between the student and parent(s). If you believe that this describes your situation, you may be eligible to file a Dependency Appeal Form with the Financial Aid Office.

Contact the Financial Aid Office for advice on whether you are eligible to file a Dependency Appeal Form.