Can I Appeal My FAFSA® Dependency Status?

Students can appeal the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) Dependency Status through the financial aid office at the school they wish to attend. The administrators there can grant a change if there are compelling reasons to support it. This is a case-by-case decision, and usually, it won’t happen unless there are extenuating circumstances.

What Is Dependency Status?

When you complete your FAFSA®, you receive a dependency status of either dependent or independent. If you are dependent, you’ll need to supply your family’s financial information as part of the process. This is based on the premise that paying for education is first the responsibility of the student and his or her family.

If you are an independent student, you only report your information and your spouse’s if you’re married. Independent students generally receive more assistance, though there are exceptions.

You cannot decide for yourself whether you are independent or dependent, even if you don’t live with your parents or depend on them financially. But if you feel that the FAFSA® process assigned your status incorrectly, you can appeal.

Sometimes unusual factors may qualify you for a status change from dependent to independent. The final decision rests with the financial aid administrators at your school.

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What Circumstances Could Change My Status?

Every case is different, but there are some common reasons a FAFSA® Dependent Status change may be denied or approved.

Examples of requests that are routinely deniedExamples of requests that might get approved
  • Parents live abroad
  • Parents refuse to provide the student with the necessary information to complete the application
  • Parents don’t want to contribute to their child’s education
  • Parents don’t claim the student in their tax returns
  • The student doesn’t have any contact with the parents or doesn’t know where his or her parents are
  • Parents are in prison, incapacitated or deceased
  • Student left home due to an abusive family environment
  • The student is an unaccompanied, self-supporting youth at risk of homelessness

How Do I Request a Change?

If you have a special circumstance that you feel warrants a change in your FAFSA® Dependency Status, write a letter to the financial aid administrator at your school. You can call your school’s financial aid office to get in touch with an administrator. Include the following in your statement:

  • A summary of the circumstances
  • Any supporting documentation that relates to those circumstances, especially from professionals like teachers, social workers, law enforcement, or psychologists familiar with your case

***Click here, to see a sample of a dependency override form***

It’s important to remember that if your status change is approved, it is only good for one year, and you’ll have to repeat this process the next year if the FAFSA® process itself continues to label you as a dependent student.

What If My School Refuses My Request?

There is no avenue for appeal if your school’s financial aid administrator denies your request for a status change. Not even the United States Department of Education can overrule the decision.

Changes to your FAFSA® Dependency Status are not easy to get, but there is a process in place for those with a legitimate need based on their circumstances. Contact your school’s financial aid office for more assistance.