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Different meanings for the word dependent

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June 13, 2022

Not claimed as a dependent on your parent’s taxes? You may still be a dependent when it comes to applying for federal financial aid.

Confusion over why a student is considered dependent on a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) when they are not claimed as a dependent on the parent’s tax return is understandable. The word “dependent” is used with both forms, but the meanings are not the same. A student not claimed as a dependent on a parent’s tax return may still be dependent for FAFSA purposes.

Dependent students for the FAFSA are required to provide parental information. Independent students do not provide parent information. To determine whether a student will provide parental information, the student needs to determine if they are dependent or independent according to the Department of Education rules.

To be considered an independent student, they must meet at least one of the qualifications below:

  • 24 years of age
  • Married
  • Have children
  • Have dependents
  • Master’s or doctorate program
  • Active duty military
  • Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Orphan, foster care or ward of the court
  • Emancipated minor
  • Legal guardianship
  • Homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless

If a student does not meet any of the qualifications listed above, they will be dependent and must provide parent information.

Both dependent and independent students may be asked to provide financial information on the FAFSA. Therefore, both students and parents should be prepared to provide income and asset information on the FAFSA.

Students, parents, and educators with questions about dependency status or the FAFSA can contact the Mapping Your Future staff at or (800) 374-4072.