FAFSA’s “Dependency Override”

What if my parents are around, but I have no contact?

There are plenty of students who fall into this category. You may have absolutely nothing to do with your parents. Perhaps one or both of them is alive and still legally tied to you, but they abandoned you or have been institutionalized. You need to prove that you are no longer tied to them: You need a “dependency override.”

How do I get a dependency override?

If possible, enlist the help of a professional who understands the FAFSA, such as a school counselor, college financial aid counselor, or a local college expert. Or call the FAFSA hotline.

First, the online FAFSA form will ask helpful questions. When asked for your parent information on the FAFSA, click the box that says: “I am unable to provide parental information.” Then complete the rest of the form and submit it. But you must do more…

Second, you need to talk to the financial aid officers in the colleges that you would like to attend. You must persuade one of these officers that you are eligible for a dependency override. (The officer will let you know what he or she needs for proof.) This officer is the only person who can contact the staff at FAFSA and manually “override” your dependency status so your form can be processed.

Third, make your case to any college you would like to attend. Reach out and work with their financial aid officers to get a financial aid package. Start this process as early as possible.

What kind of proof will I need?

Here are some documents that may help you get a dependency override. Your school counselor, social worker, or a community worker can help you gather the best documents for your case:

A letter from your high school counselor or social worker testifying to the fact that you are independent of your parents.

Police reports or court documents, such as a restraining order against one or both parents.

A report confirming one or both parents are in jail or have been institutionalized. If you are homeless and on your own, you qualify as an “independent” student.

You don’t need a dependency override. But you will need to work with your school’s “homeless liaison” to get the proof colleges will ask for.

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