Q&A: What If Your Parents Refuse to Help with the FAFSA?

If you are under the age of 24, in almost all cases, you need your parents to complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, some students have situations that prevent them from having access to their parent’s financial information or the parents refuse to hand over the information for one reason or another. In cases where parents refuse to fill out FAFSA, there are options.

A father and daughter reviewing how 529 plan affects the FAFSA

1. Talk With Your Parents

If your parents refuse to fill out FAFSA, it’s important to find out their reasoning first. Do you have a strained relationship and they’re simply unwilling to help you in any way? Or perhaps they misunderstand how the FAFSA works and believe they’re co-signing on a student loan?

Understanding their reasoning will help you plan your next steps. If there is simply a misunderstanding regarding the financial aid application, you should talk with them. Explain, in a non-judgemental way and with clear facts, what the FAFSA is and how it actually helps you afford college. 

Some benefits and points you’ll want to mention include

  • It’s easy to fill out
  • The application takes only a few minutes to complete
  • It can save you thousands of dollars
  • They don’t have to cosign on loans
  • Even if you’re offered a financial aid package with loans, you don’t necessarily have to take it
  • It is required for many scholarships, state grants, and institutional financial aid packages
  • Failing to complete it could cause you to graduate from college with high-interest debt

If they’re having trouble seeing your side of things, you may want to schedule a meeting with them and your guidance counselor or financial aid office. The professionals have seen this before and can help explain how the application works, even if your parents are a bit stubborn.

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2. Get a Dependency Override

Students under the age of 24 almost always need their parents to complete the FAFSA with them as they are not considered legally independent of their parents at this age. Some students, though, may be in a strained relationship, be financially independent already, or be unable to convince their parents of the benefits of the application. If you’re in one of these boats, you may qualify for a dependency override

A dependency override allows you to complete the FAFSA without their information. You can qualify for one if

  • There is a history of abuse in your family
  • There is a hostile relationship
  • The parent or guardian is incarcerated
  • The parent or guardian is physically or mentally incapacitated

Sadly, though, students cannot qualify for a dependency override simply because their parents won’t financially support them or they misunderstand the FAFSA. Even if you are financially independent, you need to have one of the qualifying factors above.

3. Meet with Your Financial Aid Office

Just because you don’t qualify for a dependency override doesn’t mean you don’t have options! Your next step should be to talk to your college’s financial aid office. They can help you apply for an unsubsidized direct loan which doesn’t depend on financial need. 

To qualify, you will need a signed form from your parents or guardian stating that they will not help you complete the FAFSA. If your parents refuse to do even this, though, you will then need a third party to confirm the situation. This could be another relative or teacher.

4. Explore Your Options

The FAFSA is required to apply for some federal student loans as well as be eligible for college scholarships and financial aid packages. Failing to complete it can make college difficult to afford.

If your parents refuse to help though, you do have other routes available to you – in addition to applying for the unsubsidized direct loan. You should

  • Talk to your financial aid department or guidance counselor about other aid options available to you
  • Apply for scholarships that don’t require you to demonstrate financial need
  • Explore private student loans
  • Find job opportunities near your school 
  • Apply for state grants
  • Attend a community college as they tend to be much more affordable than 4-year schools

If you absolutely cannot afford college at this point in life, you may want to consider returning to your education when you turn 24 – when you can complete your FAFSA without the aid of your parents or guardian.

In most cases, you will likely need your parents or guardians to help you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. While there are options available to you – like applying for scholarships and state grants – students that don’t complete their FAFSA miss out on financial aid packages and some federal student loans. This can make college unaffordable. Following the steps above though can help you take advantage of those options – and may even help your parents be convinced that the FAFSA is an easy-to-complete form that will only benefit your future.

If your parents refuse to fill out FAFSA, you may want to start exploring your options – that includes private student loans. College Raptor helps students and their families identify the best student loans for their unique needs through the Student Loan Finder. Try it for free here!