special circumstances

FAFSA & Financial Aid for

Homeless Students

Need Money for College?
Start Here to Get the Basics

If you are homeless and on your own, you don’t need the help of your parents to get financial aid. But you will need help from adults. Here’s how to get the college money you deserve.

Are you homeless and applying for college? The process can feel intimidating, to say the least. And finding money to go to school is a big part of the challenge.

Just know: There is a lot of help out there — and many, many thousands of homeless students successfully enroll in (and graduate from) college every year.

Things to know now:

First, it’s helpful to get the big picture. Like all students, you will need to fill out the FAFSA to get college money. Check out the FAFSA’s Q&A for homeless students. This three-pager summarizes the information you need to know to successfully apply for federal student aid.

Second, you don’t need your parents’ help to apply for college money. The online FAFSA form will ask if you are homeless. Simply click “yes.” You will be able to fill out the form. You won’t be asked for your parents’ financial information or signature.

Third, you will need to prove you are homeless to someone in the financial aid office at the college you wish to attend. See the steps below. Your school district and your college are required to help you with the FAFSA and financial aid. And they want to help you. Seek out assistance from adults you trust.

Last, you don’t need a home address to apply for college or financial aid. But you do need a mailing address where you can reliably pick up mail. Ask a friend, relative, teacher, or counselor. Staff at your college can also help with this.

Proving You Are Homeless

You don’t need to prove you are homeless on the FAFSA form, but your college will need this proof. Ask your high school teachers or counselors to help you get the paperwork you will need.

Colleges need to know that you are truly independent of your parents. They will ask for a “homeless youth determination” letter.

If you are a high school student, you can get this letter from someone in your school. Ask your college counselor or a teacher to introduce you to the school’s “homeless liaison.” Every school or school district is required to have one. This person will talk to you and write your letter.

There are others who can write this letter for you as well. But start with your high school.

If you can’t find someone to help you with your homeless determination letter, call the financial aid office of the college you wish to attend. You can speak with a financial aid administrator about getting the proof you need.

(Tip: If you like the folks in your college financial aid office, stay in close touch. There are many ways they can help you pay for college and get through school successfully.)

Money and Housing

Need more money? You may qualify for any number of scholarships out there. Here is a link to some scholarships you might consider applying to.

Need housing? Talk to your college financial office to see if the school provides either emergency funding or housing. Many do. You might also be eligible for programs and resources specifically for homeless students. Check out this helpful list by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Need more support? Depending on your location, local organizations may help you get housing and support in college. There are social services you can apply for, including food stamps, Medicaid, and Section 8 housing. Start with SchoolHouse Connection. It is a terrific resource for high school and college students.

All of this might feel a bit overwhelming, but don’t get discouraged. Look for people who understand your situation. Feel proud that you are getting the education you deserve.

More Help for Homeless Students

Tools & Resources

Proving You’re Homeless? Sample Letters for Colleges

Colleges need an official letter from someone in your school or your community proving that you are homeless. These sample letters make it easy to write a letter for you.

Your Rights as a Homeless Student

Staying with someone else because you had to leave home? Living in a motel, campground, shelter, or anywhere outside? You have special rights at your school. Learn about them.

Financial Aid and Homeless Students: Questions & Answers

For the best info: Check out the federal government’s official Q&A for homeless students. Here’s what you need to do to get financial help from colleges.

More Help

This Year’s FAFSA: Five Tips for Helping Students

Helping students complete the FAFSA will take extra attention and effort this year. Here are five tips for helping students who are homeless or in foster care fill out the FAFSA.

Help for Adults Working with Homeless Students

This New York State site is packed with information & training materials for educators and community members (in any state) who assist children and teens experiencing homelessness.

Posters Promoting FAFSA & College

The National Center on Homeless Education offers free posters & other materials for students about the FAFSA and financial aid. Helpful in schools, shelters, or any community location.

Translate »