What information do I need about my parents for FAFSA®?
If you’re filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) as a dependent student, you’ll generally need to include some information about at least one of your parents for the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) to process your application.
In this article, we’ll cover why at least one of your parents or both need to supply information if you’re a dependent on your FAFSA®, the information that at least one of your parents will need to provide, and how they need to go about it.
Why do I have to report my parents’ information on the FAFSA®?
Federal student aid programs are based on the concept that dependent students and their families are primarily responsible for paying for a student’s education.
In simple terms, a dependent student is considered financially dependent on their parents, while an independent student is considered financially independent.
If you’re dependent, your financial information and at least one of your parents has to be supplied with your FAFSA® to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which colleges use to determine how much financial aid (if any) they’ll award you.
It's important to be aware that the EFC is transitioning to the Student Aid Index (SAI), a new methodology for calculating students’ eligibility for federal student aid, beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA®. For now, still familiarize yourself with EFC.
To best determine your dependency status, you should utilize the FSA’s dependency guidelines available on StudentAid.gov.
Of note, whether you’re actually financially reliant on your parents isn’t part of the FSA’s dependency equation. Your parents might not be helping you financially at all, for instance, and you could still be considered a dependent.
What personal information from your parents is needed to file FAFSA® for dependent students?
You’ll need your parents’ basic personal information, including their names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, contact information, and some of their financial information. Here’s a breakdown.
You’ll need to indicate whether your parent or parents are married, remarried, separated/divorced, unmarried but living together, or widowed. Based on that answer, the FAFSA® will ask for the date of their marriage, divorce, or spouse’s death.
If your legal parent is remarried, and you’re reporting that legal parent’s information, you’ll need to include your stepparent’s information in your application.
In the case of divorce or separation, your legal parent is the parent with whom you live most of the time during the past 12 months. If you live with each parent for an equal amount of time, your legal parent is the parent who provides more financial support.
You’ll need to report your household size on the FAFSA®. For dependent students, household size includes:
- Your parent or parents (and spouse, if applicable)
- Any other children your parent or parents will be financially supporting during the school year
- Any other dependents who live with you and who your parent or parents will be financially supporting during the school year
The FAFSA® will ask for your parent’s tax information from two years prior to the academic year for which aid is being requested. For example, your parents will be required to report their tax information from 2021 for the 2023-24 FAFSA®.
To make the process easier, your parents can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to link your FAFSA® to their IRS tax filings.
If they can’t find their tax returns or use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, they can request a tax transcript on the IRS website.
Bank statements, investments, and untaxed income
In addition to your parents’ tax information, the FAFSA®, will ask for an accounting of their holdings in cash, checking and savings accounts, and investments.
Stocks, bonds, and second homes are all considered investments for the purposes of the FAFSA®, but their primary residence and any small businesses or farms they operate don’t need to be reported.
They’ll also need to provide records of untaxed income and interest income.
An FSA ID
The final piece of the puzzle for FAFSA® is to have a parent sign up for an FSA ID if you plan to submit the FAFSA® electronically. Your parent can create an FSA ID on StudentAid.gov.
Why do they need to do this? While you can supply your parent’s information via your FAFSA® form, they’ll need to sign the form, and the easiest way for them to do that is electronically via their FSA ID.
Your parent’s FSA ID serves as their legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. It also confirms their identity and grants them access to certain U.S. Department of Education websites.
Only one legal parent needs to create an FSA ID. In the case of separated or divorced parents, students should have the parent they’ve lived with most during the prior 12 months create an FSA ID.
Of note, it’s not a requirement to have a parent create an FSA ID. Students and parents have the option of printing the FAFSA®, signing it, and mailing a hard copy, but many will find that electronically signing the FAFSA® is easier. Also, some parents might not be able to create an FSA ID for various reasons, including not having a Social Security number.
If you’re considered a dependent student, you’ll need to involve at least one parent in the FAFSA® process, except under a few circumstances. Familiarize yourself with what’s needed from them, and hopefully, you can help make the FAFSA® process go as smoothly as possible.