The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is required for students preparing to go to college to qualify for federal financial aid, such as grants and student loans. The FAFSA can be filled out entirely online. The FAFSA requires dependent students to give information about their parents, including total yearly income and level of education, to determine how much aid the student is eligible for.
Why Information on Parents is Needed
The FAFSA requires information about parents if the student is considered dependent, meaning that the student lives with his parents, or parent, and is financially supported by them. The parent's or parents' yearly earnings are needed to determine how much aid and the type of aid a student qualifies for; a parent's level of education is also a factor in determining student aid. A parent's earnings and net worth determines the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. EFC is dependent on total yearly income, number of investments and worth of assets. EFC can be calculated online for free.
Divorced or Separated Parents
If the student's parents are divorced or separated, she should give information about the parent she lived with the most in the last year. If the student lived six months with both parents, she should fill out information on whichever parent provided the most financial support, such as paying medical and car insurance and other expenses. The parent who is primarily responsible for these expenses is most likely the parent who will contribute to college expenses and finances; that parent's information should be used to determine EFC.
Single or Widowed Parent
If the student's parent is single or widowed, he would provide information for the single or living parent. If the parent remarried, the student should provide information for the step-parent as well, provided that the step-parent assumes partial financial responsibility for the student.
No Contact with Parents
If the student has had no contact with her parent or parents within the past year due to abusive circumstances or other personal reasons, she should contact the financial aid department at the school she hopes to attend. An administrator can help the student determine what information to put in the FAFSA. The FAFSA does not accept information on legal guardians or foster parents in lieu of information on parents.