Your FAFSA dependency status as either an independent student or a dependent student is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (a FAFSA application). The difference between the two depends on the level of access that the student in question has the financial support of their parents. It is very important to fill out the FAFSA and to recognize your dependence status since it decides how financial assistance is measured and how you will borrow the full amount of direct loans.
Dependent students are required to report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA, while independent students are not. This means that the amount of financial aid you are eligible for may be affected by whether you are considered a dependent or independent student.
In addition, independent students may be eligible for certain types of financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, based on their own income and assets, without taking their parents’ income and assets into account. This can be beneficial for students who have parents who are unable or unwilling to contribute to their education.
However, becoming an independent student can be difficult, as you must meet certain criteria such as being at least 24 years old, being married, having children or dependents, being a veteran or active duty military member, or being an orphan or ward of the court.
It’s important to note that being considered a dependent or independent student for FAFSA purposes is not the same as being claimed as a dependent or independent on your tax return. The criteria for each may be different, so it’s important to understand the requirements for both.
Who is a Dependent Student in FAFSA for Masters Program?
In FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), a dependent student is typically defined as a student who relies on their parents or legal guardians for financial support. To be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes, the student must meet certain criteria, including:
- Be under the age of 24 as of December 31 of the award year (the year for which aid is being requested)
- Be unmarried
- Not have any dependents of their own that they support at least 50% of the time
- Not be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces or currently serving on active duty
- Not be an emancipated minor, in legal guardianship, or a ward of the court
- Not be homeless or at risk of being homeless
- Not have been in legal guardianship or a ward of the court at any time since they turned 13.
If a student meets any of these criteria, they may be considered an independent student for FAFSA purposes and will not be required to report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA. Otherwise, they will be considered a dependent student and must report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA.
Who is an Independent Student in FAFSA for a Master’s Program?
An independent student only reports their own income and their spouse’s income, if applicable.
The federal definition of an independent student is one who meets at least one of the following criteria:
- You are working on a degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, above a bachelor’s degree.
- You have a child or children or other legitimate dependents who are providing more than half of the financial assistance.
- You got married (or separated but not divorced)
- You are 24 years of age at least,
- You’re a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States
- You are still on active service with the Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
- When any of your parents died at some time after you turned 13, you were in foster care or were a ward of the court.
- As decided by a court judge, you are an emancipated kid,
You are expected to disclose parental information on your FAFSA if you do not follow any of those requirements, ensuring you are listed as a dependent student.
If you fulfill any ONE of the above requirements for independent students, you do NOT need to include FAFSA details from your parents.
Your school may ask for your independent status documents, such as a marriage certificate or evidence of emancipation, so be ready to supply it.
Dependent Vs. Independent Student: How it Affects Scholarships and Grants for Graduate Students?
The main difference between dependent and independent students in FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is how the student’s financial need is calculated.
Dependent students are required to report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA, while independent students are not. This is because dependent students are assumed to have the support of their parents or legal guardians in paying for college. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for dependent students is calculated based on their parent’s income and assets, as well as the student’s income and assets, if any.
In contrast, independent students are assumed to be responsible for paying for their own education, so their EFC is calculated based only on their own income and assets. However, if the independent student is married, the income and assets of their spouse must also be reported on the FAFSA.
To be considered an independent student for FAFSA purposes, the student must meet certain criteria, such as being at least 24 years old, being married, having dependents, being a veteran, or being an emancipated minor.
In general, being considered an independent student can make a significant difference in the amount of financial aid you are eligible for, as you will not be penalized for your parents’ income or assets. However, meeting the criteria to be considered an independent student can be challenging for some students.
For the tax year published on the FAFSA, let’s presume a student records an adjusted gross income of $25,000. Their parents receive a whopping $150,000. The school would base financial assistance on $25,000 of income and whatever savings the student has as if the student is deemed independent. The financial aid grant would be focused on $175,000 of income and assets if the recipient is dependent.
How to apply for FAFSA for Graduate Programs?
- Get a Federal Student Aid ID
Your first move is to get a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID if you don’t already have one to qualify for FAFSA as a graduate. On the Federal Student Assistance website, you will get an FSA ID. To apply for your FAFSA, an FSA ID is required, and it will serve as your digital signature. Your full name, social security number, and date of birth will need to be registered.
- Gather the Documents You’ll Need
If you compile all the information you need early on, it is quicker and can help the process run smoother, because you have what you need before you start filling out the FAFSA forms.
You may need info from any or all of the following:
- Your social security number
- Your driver’s license or another form of ID
- Your prior year’s tax returns
- W-2 forms and other records of current-year income
- Current bank statements
- Records of savings, stocks, bonds, trusts, etc.
Note, you’re trying to register independently, not as a dependent of your parents, so you’re not going to need some of their financial records (although, again, consult with the school(s) you’re applying to because some need some parent details).
- Select the Correct FAFSA Form
You can launch your application for the FAFSA now. Go to FAFSA.gov and pick the right form. The form you fill out will be dependent on where you decide to enter graduate school. For instance, if you intend to start grad school between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, you can complete the FAFSA form for 2021/2022.
- Complete the FAFSA
You should finish your FAFSA for graduate school now. Usually, the form takes several hours to complete, and you may need to submit personal information, pick which colleges you apply for, and enter financial information, such as information about your tax returns, salary, and other properties.
- Sign and Submit Your FAFSA
You will need to sign in with your FSA ID after you’ve done the FAFSA, and then you can apply it. Usually, FAFSA applications are handled within three to five days. You will submit a Student Assistance Report (SAR) that outlines the data you submitted to the FAFSA application after yours has been processed. The expected family contribution would be included in your SAR (EFC). After you have confirmed that all the information in your SAR is right, it will be sent to the schools in your FAFSA that you have chosen so that they can build your individual aid package.
Will You Get More Financial Aid as an Independent Student for a Master’s Degree?
Becoming an independent student can affect your eligibility for financial aid, but it does not necessarily mean that you will receive more financial aid than a dependent student. This is because financial aid eligibility is based on a variety of factors, such as the cost of attendance, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and the availability of funds.
In general, independent students may be eligible for certain types of aid that are not available to dependent students, such as the unsubsidized Direct Loan and the Graduate PLUS Loan. These loans do not require a financial need, so independent students may be able to borrow more money to cover their education expenses.
Additionally, if you are an independent student, your EFC will be calculated based solely on your income and assets, rather than your parent’s income and assets. This could potentially result in a lower EFC, which would increase your eligibility for need-based aid, such as grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.
However, it is important to note that independent students are generally considered to be more financially independent and may have higher incomes and assets than dependent students. As a result, they may not qualify for as much need-based aid as dependent students with lower incomes.
Overall, whether you will receive more financial aid as an independent student for a master’s degree will depend on your individual circumstances and financial need. It is important to complete the FAFSA and explore all available financial aid options to determine what types of aid you may be eligible for.
How Do Independent Students Get More Financial Aid from Graduate Programs?
To assess whether students apply for financial assistance, the DOE uses multiple factors. Dependence status is one aspect of the equation for student loans, but this is the only program that explicitly uses this information.
You may have a lower income and fewer assets as an individual student, which may indirectly affect your FAFSA records.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application that is completed and forwarded to the federal government by you and/or your parents or guardians so that the DOE can decide what sorts of financial support you apply for. From two sources, your FAFSA number is based on a mathematical equation:
- Expected family contribution (EFC): This is the money and savings you will spend on your schooling or your family. This data often comes from your family if you are a dependent student. This is your own data if you are an individual student.
- Cost of attendance (COA): This is the expense that you mentioned on your FAFSA of attending a college, university, trade school, or technical school.
To build your FAFSA number, the DOE subtracts your EFC from the COA. This data is sent to each school you list on the FAFSA list (up to 10 schools at a time). If they approve your application, each school then produces financial assistance reward packages for you to go along with your acceptance letter.
You could have fewer savings and profits than the total financial strength of your parents as an adult student. You may be younger, but at a full-time job, you work. You may have your own loans, and you may have a partner and your own dependent ones.
As an individual student, all this knowledge impacts the EFC, so you potentially qualify for more financial assistance than other reliant students. Still, this isn’t guaranteed. No matter what, you can fill out the FAFSA, so you can get updates on financial assistance.
Know more about FAFSA from the links given below.