Mapping Your Future: Questions to determine who needs to contribute to a student's FAFSA

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Questions to determine who needs to contribute to a student's FAFSA

By Catherine Mueller

May 23, 2024

Even though a FAFSA belongs to a student, the student is usually not the only person with a role in completing it.

To determine who, if anyone, should contribute to their FAFSA, a student should first determine if they are considered dependent or independent. The Department of Education provides a list of personal circumstances that qualifies a student for independent status

Once it’s determined whether the student is independent or dependent, they should ask themselves (or anyone helping the student should ask) the following questions:

 Independent students

  • Is the student married?
    • If the student is married, does the student file taxes jointly with their spouse? If yes, then the student won’t need to invite their spouse to contribute to the FAFSA. However, the student will need to provide their spouse’s name and contact information on the form.
    • If the student is not married, then they will only provide their own information.

Dependent students

  • Are the student’s parents married?
    • If yes, do they file joint taxes? If they file taxes jointly, only one parent will need to contribute to the FAFSA, but the parent completing the form will be asked to provide the name and contact information for the other parent. If they don’t file joint taxes, both parents will need to contribute information to the student’s FAFSA.
    • If no (the parents are not married), are the parents living together? If yes, then both parents will need to contribute to the student’s FAFSA.
    • If no (the parents are not married), are the parents divorced or separated (or were they never married and not living together)? If yes, then the parent who provided the most financial support to the student will need to contribute to the FAFSA.
  • Are the student’s parents remarried?
    • If yes, the parent who provided the most financial support will contribute information to the FAFSA. If the remarried parent files joint taxes with the stepparent, then only the parent will contribute to the FAFSA and provide name and contact information for the stepparent. If they don’t file joint taxes, both the parent and stepparent will need to contribute information to the student’s FAFSA.

A student who is considered dependent will need at least one parent to contribute information to their FAFSA.

Anyone who has been identified as a FAFSFA contributor will need to establish an account at StudentAid.gov in order to complete the form.

Contact Mapping Your Future with questions about completing the FAFSA at (800) 374-4072 or feedback@mappingyourfuture.org