A Guide to Reporting Parent Info on Your FAFSA

If you’re planning to go to college in fall 2016, you will definitely want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Not only does the FAFSA give you access to grants and loans from the federal government, but many states and schools also use information from the FAFSA to award their financial aid.

If you are considered a dependent student for the purposes of the FAFSA, you’re required to provide information about your parent(s) on the application. (Note: The dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are set by Congress and are different from those used on tax returns.) You might be wondering which parent’s information to report or what you should do if your parents are divorced or remarried, or if you live with another family member.

Don’t worry; we can help you figure out whose information to include. For a quick visual reference, check out our infographic, Who’s My Parent When I Fill Out the FAFSA?

Who's My Parent When I Fill Out My FAFSA? Graphic

Click to enlarge

Or, if you want more information, here are some guidelines. Unless noted, “parent” means your legal (biological or adoptive) parent.

  • If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
  • If your parents are living together and are not married, answer the questions about both of them.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent 12 months that you actually received support from a parent. If you have a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting, you must provide information about that stepparent as well.

The following people are not considered your parents on your FAFSA unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

Curious about what information you and your parents will need to provide on the FAFSA? Learn more about the FAFSA and how to fill it out at StudentAid.gov/fafsa.

If you still have questions or are unsure what to do if your parents are unable or unwilling to provide their information for your FAFSA, you can get more information at StudentAid.ed.gov/fafsa-parent.

Tara Marini is a data and communications analyst, and Cindy Forbes Cameron is a lead communications analyst, at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

11 Comments

  1. After we fill the FAFSA out and get a response back. Then we file taxs and inter in the new information. What is the next step in the process? Should we contact someone or will someone contact us?

    • Schools that have accepted you will send you a letter, either in the mail or email. Your FAFSA information is shared with the colleges and/or career schools you list on the application. The financial aid office at a school uses your information to figure out how much federal student aid you may receive at that school. If the school has its own funds to use for financial aid, it might use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for that aid as well. (The school might also have other forms it wants you to fill out to get school aid, so check with the financial aid office to be sure.)

      Your information also goes to your state higher education agency, as well as to agencies of the states where your chosen schools are located. Many states have financial aid funds that they give out based on FAFSA information. More about what happens next.

  2. My mom passed away last year and my father won’t sign the paperwork for me to get my financial aid. What do I do?

    • I am in a similar situation with my sons. They want me to cosign their loans, but they also want to go out of state to college without scholarship. I have suggested to them to go in state, get a job, live at home, and go to community college, and cash flow as much of college as possible, which would greatly reduce college loans. I would be willing to cosign if my sons would agree to go the economical route, however, they choose not to so, with this expensive choice I’m putting it in their hands to get their loans.

    • Megan, you should talk to the Financial Aid officers at the school or schools where you’ve been admitted. They’re there to help and can give you specific information about your situation. Sometimes parents think if they refuse to give any information, or tell the colleges that they will not provide any support, that the schools will offer their children more aid. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Many schools will not even award merit aid–scholarships for good grades or test scores, for example–without a completed FAFSA.

    • You can still complete the FAFSA even if your parents are unwilling to provide their information. Answer “no” to being able to provide parent information and also “no” to the special circumstance question. The downside is you may only qualify for unsubsidized loans. Check with your school’s financial aid office for further assistance with your unique situation. More info: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#unwilling-parents

  3. What if my aunt and uncle raised me since 2006 ? I wasn’t adopted but u live in their house and they pay for everything, what do I do then?
    Thank you for your help

    • Hi Kelly,

      Unfortunately, even if you live with someone other than your parents, you still must report information about them. However, you can still complete the FAFSA even if your parents are unwilling to provide their information. Answer “no” to being able to provide parent information and also “no” to the special circumstance question. The downside is you may only qualify for unsubsidized loans. Check with your school’s financial aid office for further assistance with your unique situation. More info: http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out#unwilling-parents

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