You may consider yourself independent because you don't receive support from your parents and/or don't live in your parents' home. You may even qualify as independent for income tax purposes, but the U.S. Department of Education has stricter standards for financial aid purposes.
In order to file your financial aid application as an independent student, you must meet one or more of the following criteria:
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. Note: If you do answer "yes" to one of the above questions, you may be subject to verification by the Financial Aid Office.
If your parents are divorced and your custodial parent has remarried, your stepparent's information must be included as well, even if your parent and stepparent file separate tax forms, and even if they have an agreement not to assist each other's children with college expenses.
The only exception to the dependency rules is in very rare instances where it can be proven that there is a total breakdown in the relationship between student and parent(s). Grand Valley calls this a Dependency Status Appeal. If you are unsure if your situation would qualify for consideration contact a financial aid counselor in our office or review the appeal form available on our website.
Filing incorrectly as independent when you're actually a dependent student can seriously delay the processing of your financial aid. If you have questions about your status, contact a financial aid counselor before filing your FAFSA.