Determining If Your Child Is An “Independent Student”

Every year I meet a family who tells me they have it all figured out… their plan to get more financial aid is to declare their student “independent” – after all, he or she is over 18 so they are “independent” in the eyes of the law (and often the IRS, too 🙂 )

And every year that family is shocked when I respond and tell them that although the law and the IRS may consider your student an independent adult, he or she is not independent according to the rules of financial aid!

There are criteria that will be used to determine if your child is “independent” according to the rules of financial aid.  Here they are:

  1. A student is 23 years of age or older before their first year of college. If your student meets this criteria, great.  My clients are high school students entering college for the first time, and your student likely is, too.
  2. A student is a veteran of the armed forces. Again, if your student is just graduating high school, this doesn’t apply to you.
  3. A student is married. Yes, it can happen.  But if you’re thinking about encouraging your child to get married in order to save a few bucks on college costs – trust me there are much better ways to save!
  4. A student has a child of his or her own. Again, this does happen.  BUT if you’re thinking about becoming a grandparent in order to save a few bucks on the cost of college – you and I really should talk because there are much better ways to save on the cost of college!
  5. A student is an orphan or ward of the state. Now, there might be times when this might be tempting (like the next time you tell your student “no” to something and the door slams to their room); however, if you’re considering this just to make your student eligible for more financial aid, there are easier ways to save.

Now if you’re looking for a way to make sure you don’t pay one dollar more for college than is absolutely necessary, there are ways to make it happen.  However, in all likelihood, getting your student declared “independent” for financial aid purposes will not be one of them.

If you’re the parent of a high school freshman, sophomore or junior and want to learn more advanced strategies that will help you create the right college plan for your situation, take the right action so you can get more money to help you pay for college, and schedule your college plan review today!

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