Financial aid application

Important Information

Take advantage of being an “Independent Student” on the FAFSA or CADAA, if eligible, when responding to questions in the “Student Personal Circumstances” section.

An “Independent Student” does not have to provide any information-including income, tax, and asset information-about biological, adoptive, or foster parents (including relative or non-relative caregivers), or legal guardians, and may qualify for more money.


Check all that apply.

  • “At any time since the student turned 13, they were a ward of the court.”
  • “At any time since the student turned 13, they were in foster care.”
  • “The student is or was in a legal guardianship with someone other than their parent or stepparent, as determined by a court in their state of residence.”

Not sure if a foster youth qualifies as an Independent Student?

  • Neither legal guardians nor foster parents (resource parents) are considered parents when completing the FAFSA/CADAA.
  • Even if the youth was in foster care or was a ward of the court for just one day after they turned 13, they qualify.
  • If the youth was in foster care or a dependent or ward of the court, but remained in the legal custody of their parents, they do not qualify as an Independent Student on the FAFSA/CADAA.
  • Some foster youth are under the jurisdiction of probation due to involvement with the juvenile justice system. These students are still eligible for independent status. However, someone who is incarcerated is not considered a ward of the court on the FAFSA/CADAA.

Students who may be considered an “Independent Student”:

  • Foster
  • Former Foster
  • Homeless Unaccompanied
  • Other Circumstances

“At any time on or after July 1, 2023, was the student unaccompanied and either (1) homeless or (2) self­supporting and at risk of being homeless?”

Not sure if a student experiencing homelessness qualifies as an Independent Student?

  • Students must be “unaccompanied”, which means that they are not living with or in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.
  • Being homeless is defined as “lacking fixed, regular, adequate housing.” This can include “couch-surfing,” staying temporarily in a hotel or motel, living in a shelter, living in a vehicle, or staying someplace not normally meant for human habitation (such as a park, abandoned building, etc.)
  • Students can also qualify if they are “self-supporting and at risk of being homeless”. This means that they pay for their own living expenses, and their housing may cease to be “fixed, regular, and adequate,” such as if they are being evicted and have nowhere else to go.
  • When asked “Did any of the following determine the student was homeless or at risk of becoming homeless?” the student should check all that apply if they have a written determination of their homeless status from the entity.
    • Director or designee of an emergency or transitional shelter, street outreach program. homeless youth drop-in center, or other program serving those experiencing homelessness
    • The student’s high school or school district homeless liaison ordesignee
    • Director or designee of a project supported by a federal TRIO or GEAR UP program grant
    • Financial aid administrator (FAA)
    • None of the above