What is an independent student?
The independent student definition created by Congress is VERY strict. It is strict because this status is used by school financial aid administrators in determining student’s eligibility for federal and state aid. Unless you are a returning college student it is unlikely that you are an independent student. If you should qualify for independent student status it means your parents income and assets are not included on the either the paper FAFSA or the FAFSA online.
An independent Student is a student who is considered independent for Federal financial aid purposes is at least one of the following:
-Over 24 years of age
-Have a dependent child who receives at least 50% of support from student
-Have a dependent person who receives at least 50% of support from student
-A veteran of the armed forces
-An orphan or ward of the court
If you answered yes to any one of the above questions you’re an independent student and you should consider how to maximize your financial aid package as an adult student.
Otherwise, you must use your parent’s information on the FAFSA and any other financial aid form.
All students have challenges in terms of coming up with enough money for their education and their living expenses while attending college or university. However independent students have even more challenges due to their circumstances. Some have families to support with dependent children. Others have come back from overseas assignments and then there are those unfortunate people who have no family to help them emotionally and financially to attend college.
Receiving financial aid from federal and state agencies can make a huge difference in their lives. In fact being able to go to school to learn a trade or develop a career can totally change their lives for the better. This is one of the main reasons that this kind of financial aid is available for independent students and why the government wants to help people improve their chances for a better life.
Mature Independent Students
One of the main differences for independent students is that many have experienced more of life’s challenges and know how important it is to focus on learning and developing a career. They also know how important it is to balance budgets and manage their expenses to stretch every dollar as far as possible. This is something that regular students attending college for the first time away from home sometimes have to learn the hard way.
These people have well developed goals regarding what they want to achieve and why they want to finish school and find a better job. After all if your family is making sacrifices while you return to school, you had better be serious and the work had better pay off after you finish in terms of a better job with more pay at the end of it all. This is what makes these people tend to work harder and focus on meeting their objectives for improving their own life and that of their families.
Veterans as Independent Students
For some reason many veterans return from service and have a really difficult time finding work that pays well enough to support their families. They have developed lots of skills while in the forces, however unfortunately these skills are not always skills that can be used well in private civilian life.
Veterans are one of the groups of people who can benefit from independent student status and receive support for returning to college to enhance existing skills and build new skills that will be marketable in today’s civilian work force. There is a lot of competition out there for jobs especially in today’s environment with the job unemployment rate so low. Going back to school can make a huge difference in their lives and receiving the financial assistance to help them do that as an independent student can be very helpful.
Veterans have experiences that many of their fellow students do not have and may never have. It may be difficult to relate to their fellow students because of this, however this difficulty also frees them to work hard and stay focused on their goal of adding the skills they need to get a job when they graduate.
Good luck to all independent students.