How does being a Dependent or an Independent Student Affect FAFSA for Graduate programs?


Your FAFSA dependency status as either an independent student or a dependent student is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA application). The difference between the two depends on the level of access that the student in question has to 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 the financial assistance is measured and how you will borrow the full amount of direct loans.

Who is a Dependent Student in FAFSA for Masters Program?

In general, a dependent student is one who, for financial assistance, depends on their parent or guardian and is therefore required to report that revenue to the FAFSA.

For the intent of financial loans, the Department of Education requires specific criteria to assess dependence. A dependent student is a student who does not meet all of the criteria for an independent student who lives with his parents, normally an undergraduate student.

Who is an Independent Student in FAFSA for Masters 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:

  1. You are working on a degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, above a bachelor’s degree.
  2. You have a child or children or other legitimate dependents who are providing more than half of the financial assistance.
  3. You got married (or separated but not divorced)
  4. You are 24 years of age at least,
  5. You’re a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States
  6. You are still on active service with the Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 disparity between an independent and a dependent student may have a huge effect on the reward plan for your financial assistance. Income and assets, which include parental income and assets for dependent students, impact central government grants, and state and college-level scholarships.

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 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 into 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 Masters Degree?

You may question if independent students earn more financial assistance than dependent students as a college-bound high school graduate or the parent of a student applying to colleges.

Overall, the answer is no, although certain services from the Department of Education (DOE) grant individual students more cash than dependent ones.

How Do Independent Students Get More Financial Aid 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 less 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 families 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 less 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.

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