If I Don’t Live With My Parents, How Do I Apply for Financial Aid for College or Career School?
Last updated on 05/24/2021 at 7:37 pm
How do I apply for college financial aid?
The first step to apply for financial aid for 2-year or 4-year college or career school is almost always to fill out a form called the FAFSA. Filling out the FAFSA can be confusing. You may have questions like:
- What is the FAFSA?
- How do I know if I need to fill out the FAFSA?
- What information is required to complete it?
- What if I do not live with my parents and I want to apply for financial aid?
Answers to these questions and more can be found below.
What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You must submit the FAFSA if you want to apply for federal and state financial aid for college or career school.
Financial aid includes loans, grants, and work-study funds. You must repay loans with interest. You do not have to repay grants unless certain things happen (for example: you withdraw from school). You can earn work-study through a work-study jobs program to help you pay for school. Work-study does not have to be repaid.
The type and amount of financial aid you can get will depend on the income you and/or your parents have to help pay for college. To determine if your parents’ income is included, you will need to determine if you are a dependent or independent student under FAFSA rules.
How do I know if I am a dependent or independent student?
The FAFSA asks a set of questions to see if you are a dependent or independent student.
Dependent students under FAFSA rules WILL put their parent information on their FAFSA. Most students filling out the FAFSA are dependent students.
Independent students under FAFSA rules will NOT have to put parent information on their FAFSA.
You are an independent or non-dependent student if you are one or more of these:
- Over 24 years old
- Working toward a graduate degree
- On active duty in the U.S. Forces for purposes other than training
- A veteran
- A parent to children who get more than half their support from you in a set time period
- Responsible for someone other than a child or spouse who lives with you and will get more than half of their support from you during a set time period
- If you are 13 or older, AND are parentless due to the death of both parents, are in foster care, or are a dependent or ward of the state
- Found by a court to be an emancipated minor
- Under the legal guardianship of someone other than a parent or stepparent
- Found by his or her high school or school district to be an unaccompanied homeless youth or a self-supporting youth at risk of being homeless
- Found by a director of an emergency housing program to be an unaccompanied homeless youth or a self-supporting youth at risk of being homeless
- Found by the director of a homeless youth program to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or was self-supporting and at risk of being homeless
Am I eligible to receive financial aid?
To get financial aid through the FAFSA you must:
- Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
- Have a Social Security number (unless you are from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, or Palau.)
- Have a high school diploma, a GED, or complete homeschooling. (You may still be eligible if you were in college or career school before July 1, 2012)
- Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
- Keep up good academic progress.
- Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
- Register (or be registered) with Selective Services if you are a man and not on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. (If you are Micronesia, the Marshall Islands or Palau, you do not have to register.)
- Have no convictions for possession or sale of illegal drugs for a crime that happened while you were getting federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans). If you have such a conviction, you must complete the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet to see if you can get aid.
These requirements are also listed on the Federal Student Aid website. You should be sure you are eligible before you begin filling out the FAFSA.
When is the FAFSA due?
The due date for the FAFSA depends on the school the student plans to attend, so check with each school first. You can find state-specific due dates for the current college school year at the bottom of this page.
You can begin filling out the FAFSA on October 1st. Funds for federal financial aid are limited and go out on a first-come first-serve basis, so you should fill out the form as soon as possible after October 1st.
In WV, currently the FAFSA is due by March 1st if you wish to apply for the PROMISE Scholarship and by April 15 if you wish to apply for the WV Higher Education Grant or the WV Invests Grant. Again, funds are limited and awarded on a first come first serve basis, so you should always apply as soon after October 1st as possible. The due dates for each state can and do change, so be sure to check the deadline on the FAFSA webpage for up-to-date information.
I meet the requirements to be eligible for financial aid. Is there anything else I should do before filling out the FAFSA?
Before you begin filling out the FAFSA, students will need:
- Your driver’s license if you have one
- Your social security number
- If you are a dependent student, your parents’ social security numbers
- Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. Citizen
- The following tax forms from the most recent year for you, your spouse if married, and your parents if you are a dependent student:
- a. IRS 1040
- b. Foreign tax return
- c. Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, or Palau
- Records of your untaxed income, such as child support, interest income, and veteran’s non-education benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
- Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student. (Note: Assets from family farms or family businesses with 100 or fewer full-time or full-time equivalent employees should not be included.)
Keep these documents on-hand until the FAFSA is fully processed, as you may need them again. DO NOT mail these documents with your FAFSA.
Why do I need to provide my parent’s information?
Dependent students must provide parent information because, under federal law, parents are mostly responsible for paying for their child’s college or technical school instead of the government. The federal government gives financial aid to students whose parents can’t pay for their child’s education, not to students whose parents are simply unwilling to pay.
You will need both parents’ information on the FAFSA unless your parents are separated or divorced. If your parents are separated or divorced, you should use the information of the parent you lived with the most last year. If you lived with both parents equally, you should use the information for the parent who gives you more financial support.
If the parent whose income you are providing has remarried, then the step-parent’s financial information must also be included.
Someone other than my parents is my legal guardian, how do I complete the FAFSA?
If someone other than your parents is your legal guardian, you are independent under the FAFSA and your legal guardian’s information WILL NOT be used on the FAFSA unless they have legally adopted you.
If you live apart from your parents, but without a legal guardian, your parents’ information WILL be needed, unless your parents CAN’T provide the necessary information for the FAFSA. (See the next question). For example, if you live with your grandparents, but they have never taken any legal action to obtain guardianship of you, you are not independent and your parents’ financial information will still be needed.
If you live with someone other than your parents, your caregiver can file for guardianship to avoid needing your parents’ financial information for your FAFSA. Find information on filing for guardianship here. You should plan head. Consider whether to file for guardianship well-before the FAFSA deadlines, possibly when you are a junior in high school.
What if I can’t provide my parent’s information for the FAFSA?
If you are considered a dependent student but one of the following special circumstances are true, you can submit your FAFSA without parent information:
- Your parents are in jail or prison
- You left home because of family abuse or abuse in your home
- You do not know where your parents are and can’t contact them (and you have not been adopted)
- You are older than 21 but not yet 24, do not have an adult with you, and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.
Once you submit your FAFSA without parent information, call the college or career school’s financial office to discuss your FAFSA. The school may ask for some proof that your parents cannot give you information for the FAFSA.
What if none of the special circumstances exist, but my parents refuse to provide the information I need for the FAFSA?
If your parent will not give you the information you need for the FAFSA, you should not use your parent’s information without his or her consent. Instead, follow these steps:
When the FAFSA form asks you to give them the information about your parents, pick the “I am unable to provide information about my parent(s)” choice. (If you are using the myStudentAid app, you will need to pick the “Learn more” choice when you get to the point where it tells you that parent information is required to figure out your estimated financial contribution or EFC.)
You will then get a list of “special circumstances.” After reading through the list, pick the one that says you don’t have a special circumstance, but you still can’t give them parent information. (If you are using the myStudentAid app, you will need to pick the choice that says you want to be considered for an unsubsidized loan.)
The application explains that if your parents don’t support you and won’t give you their information, you can submit your FAFSA form without their information. However, the only federal student aid you can get will be an unsubsidized loan—and even that might not happen. It will be up to the financial aid office at the college or career school you want to attend.
An unsubsidized loan is a loan that accrues interest from the time you take out the loan. A subsidized loan is a loan that does not accrue interest while you are enrolled at least half time or during periods of deferment.
Your FAFSA information will be sent to the colleges and career schools you list, but you won’t get an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). The college or career school will use the EFC to decide how much financial aid you may get.
After submitting your FAFSA without parent information, you must contact your school’s financial aid office right away to talk about getting an unsubsidized loan. The financial aid office may ask for something in writing from your parents, showing:
- That they will not give you their information for the FAFSA form and
- That they no longer support you. (Support includes letting you live in their home, putting you on their car or health insurance, giving you a car to drive regularly, or paying your tuition or fees.)
The financial aid office will look at your situation and decide whether you can get an unsubsidized loan. That decision is final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.
These steps are also provided on the FAFSA website.
I am ready to begin filling out my FAFSA. Where do I start?
There are a few different ways to get and fill out the FAFSA:
1. You can fill out the FAFSA online on the Federal Student Aid website at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa. This is the easiest and fastest way to turn in your FASFA. If you submit your FAFSA online, it will be processed in 3-5 days.
2. Similar to filling out the FAFSA online, you can fill out the FAFSA on Financial Student Aid’s mobile app on your phone: the app is called myStudentAid.
3. You can print off the FAFSA from a local computer and mail it in, or you can request a printed FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 334-523-2691 (TTY for the deaf or hard of hearing 1-800-730-8913). If you mail your FAFSA it will be processed in 7-10 days.
When you mail the FAFSA, you will mail it to this address:
Federal Student Aid Programs
P.O. Box 7654
London, KY 40742-7654
You can find additional information about the FAFSA and financial aid available in West Virginia by visiting the College Foundation of West Virginia website.