Dependency Status

Many undergraduate students are considered dependents who submit financial information for their family in their financial aid application materials. Applicants who qualify as independent students, however, have different application requirements based on their age and marital status. Keep reading to learn more about the application expectations tied to dependency status. 

Who is considered an Independent Student?

Dependency status is not contingent on whether you live with your parents or whether your parents claim you as an exemption on their tax returns.

To be considered an independent student, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • You were born before January 1, 2000.
  • You will be enrolled in a master's or doctorate program (beyond a bachelor's degree) at the beginning of the 2023–2024 school year.
  • You are married as of the day you apply (or you're separated but not divorced).
  • You are currently serving on active duty in the military for purposes other than training.
  • You are a veteran of the US Armed Forces
    Note: The term "veteran" includes students who attended a US service academy and were released under a condition other than dishonorable discharge. For more details on who is considered a veteran, see the explanatory notes on the FAFSA
  • You have children who will receive more than half their support from you between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2024.
  • You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who will receive more than half their support from you between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2024.
  • When you were 13 or older, both of your parents were deceased, you were in foster care, and/or you were a ward of the court.
  • In legal guardianship (as determined by a court in your state of legal residence) as of the day you apply
  • Your high school or school district homeless liaison determined you were an unaccompanied youth who was unhoused at any time on or after July 1, 2022.
  • A director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determined you were an unaccompanied youth who was unhoused or were self-supporting and at risk of becoming unhoused at any time on or after July 1, 2022.

Application Requirements for Independent Undergraduate Students

If you meet the criteria to be considered an independent student, your application requirements will vary based on your age and marital status. Please follow the guidelines below when completing your application materials:

Application requirements
Age...and unmarried...and married
If you are under 26...

Submit only your information on the FAFSA

Submit your and your parents' information on the CSS Profile

Submit you and your spouse's information on the FAFSA

Submit your and your spouses' information PLUS your parents' information on the CSS Profile

If you are 26 or over...

Submit only your information on both the FAFSA and CSS Profile

Submit your and your spouse's information on both the FAFSA and CSS Profile

Please note: Not all schools and programs require you to complete the CSS Profile and submit tax documents to IDOC.

Dependent Students with Divorced or Separated Biological Parents

When completing the FAFSA, you will be asked to report information about your parents. Please follow the guidelines below when deciding what information you include in your materials.

If your legal parents live together but are unmarried, you must report both parents' information in your application.

If your legal parents are divorced or separated, you should report information for your "custodial" parent. For your financial aid application, your custodial parent is defined as:

  • The one you lived with for the greater amount of time during the 12 months preceding the date of your application, or
  • The one who provided the greater amount of financial support during this time frame, if you lived with each parent an equal number of days or did not live with a legal parent during the 12 months preceding the date of your application, or
  • The one who most recently provide the greater amount of parental support, if you did not live with and did not receive financial support from a legal parent during the 12 months preceding the date of your application.
If your custodial parent has married and is still married to someone who is considered a stepparent on the date of your application, you should also report this stepparent's financial information on your FAFSA. Doing so will not obligate your stepparent to financially support you, but his, her, or their assets represent important information about your family's resources and will be included in calculating your eligibility for need-based federal aid.

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