Special Cases Related to Independent Status

The Federal Student Aid Programs are based on the concept that the student and parent(s) are primarily responsible for meeting a student's educational expenses. For such students, aid eligibility is determined by reporting their parents' income and assets, as well as their own, on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If, however, you are unable to provide either of your parents' information on the FAFSA due to one reason or another, you may be able to be considered independent. An independent student is an applicant who does not need to provide parental information on the FAFSA. Review the information below to see if you can answer Yes to any of these questions.

Question 5 on the FAFSA addresses PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES. Does my circumstance fit these criteria?

For the 2024-25 award year, an independent student is one of the following, as of the day you completed your FAFSA:

  1. Born before Jan. 1, 2001;
    • This is identified when you fill out Question 1 on the FAFSA
  2. Married (and not separated);
    • May need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate.
  3. A graduate (master’s or doctorate) or professional student;
    • We will look at what we have in our system.
  4. A veteran who has a DD-214 that states they were honorably discharged from active duty, including training;
    • Submit your member 2 or 4 DD-214 (military separation form), which includes boxes 23-30. Member 1 copies of your DD-214 do not suffice for this verification.
  5. A member of the armed forces who is currently serving federal active duty (not state or training purposes);
    • Submit your active-duty orders. Orders must state that you are under Section 12301 of Title 10 U.S.C.
  6. An orphan since you turned 13 years of age or older;
    • Submit death certificates or obituaries for parent(s). Write a statement if not in contact with the other parent.
  7. A ward of the court or state since you turned 13 years of age or older;
    • Submit copies of your status from either social services or the court.
  8. In foster care since you turned 13 years of age or older;
    • Submit copies of your placement from either social services, the court, or an independent living case worker who supports current and former foster youth with transition to adulthood.
  9. Have children or other people (excluding their spouse), who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you now through June 30, 2025;
    • Submit a statement as to why you indicated this as your status and how you are providing support.
  10. An emancipated minor who was legally emancipated by a court in their state of residence;
    • Submit court documentation.
  11. Someone who is or was in legal guardianship (not custody) with someone other than their parent or step-parent, as determined by a court in their state of residence;
    • Submit court documentation.
  12. Someone who is unaccompanied and homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless
    • See Question 6 for clarification.

When emailed by mckay.brekke@ndsu.edu or mary.gerardy@ndsu.edu, provide a brief statement as to why you marked that situation on your FAFSA, along with the specific document listed under each item above. After it’s reviewed, additional information may be required for any of those situations.

The email will be sent to your NDSU email. If you are a new student, instructions to activate your NDSU email account can be found at https://kb.ndsu.edu/page.php?id=99739. A form will be attached to the email for you to complete, sign*, date and send it back using one of the submit options at the bottom of the form.

*Note: Unsigned documents will be returned. Your statement must be signed with a physical signature. Typed, printed, or electronic signatures for your name are not acceptable.

If circumstances 1-11 do not pertain to your situation, see Question 6.

Question 6 on the FAFSA addresses OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES, which pertains to students experiencing homelessness (item #12 above). See below for steps you need to take for that determination.

Definitions of homelessness:

  • Unaccompanied: when a student is not living in the physical custody of a parent or guardian
  • Homeless: lacking fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence
  • At risk of being homeless: when a student’s housing may cease to be fixed, regular, and adequate
  • Self-supporting: when a student pays for their own living expenses, including fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence
    • Fixed: stationary, permanent, and not subject to change
    • Regular: used on a predictable, routine, or consistent basis
    • Adequate: sufficient for meeting both the physical (heat, water, electricity) and psychological needs (safe environment - windows and doors that lock) typically met in the home

If you marked on your FAFSA that at any time on or after July 1, 2023, you were either:

  1. Unaccompanied AND homeless, or
  2. Unaccompanied, self-supporting, AND at risk of homelessness

You will be sent an email from mary.gerardy@ndsu.edu directing you to a link for a form for you to complete, sign*, date, and submit.

*Note: Unsigned documents will not be processed.

If none of the above circumstances pertain to your situation, see Question 7.

Question 7 on the FAFSA addresses UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES which pertains to a Dependency Override.

An Unusual Circumstance is based on extenuating family circumstances for students who show compelling reason for excluding parental information from the FAFSA. Complete this form based on your relationship with your biological or legal parent(s). It must be backed up with documentation to demonstrate the dissolution of any student/parent relationship. Due to the sensitive nature of this type of information, be assured that any information you share will remain confidential. 

  • Parental abandonment or estrangement, and you have not been adopted by someone else
  • Unsafe environment involving threats or abuse related to drugs, alcohol, or your physical or emotional health 
  • Custodial parent is incapacitated or incarcerated, and you have no contact with your other biological parent 
  • Custodial parent has died, and you have no contact with your other biological parent
  • Legally granted refugee or asylum status and you’re separate from parents, or your parents are displaced in a foreign country
  • Human trafficking, as described in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.)

You will be sent an email from mary.gerardy@ndsu.edu directing you to complete the Unusual Circumstance Form. It can be found on your NDSU eForms tile in Campus Connection.

If none of the above (personal, other or unusual) circumstances pertain to your situation, you may either contact your parents to provide their information on the FAFSA or apply for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan Only, see Question 8.

Question 8 on the FAFSA asks if you want to apply for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan Only because your parents are unwilling to provide their financial information on your 2024-25 FAFSA.

This will only apply if your parents:

  • are unwilling to provide their information on the FAFSA or for verification
  • do not claim you (the student) as a dependent for income tax purposes 
  • refuse to contribute to your education
  • You (the student) demonstrate total self-sufficiency

In those situations, you may apply for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan Only, but realize that:

  • You are forfeiting consideration for all types of state and federal aid except for the Unsubsidized Direct Loan. 
  • The maximum Unsubsidized Direct Loan is $5,500 (freshman), $6,500 (sophomore) or $7,500 (junior/senior) and this amount alone will not be enough to cover your educational expenses.
  • A private student loan is another funding option which requires a co-signer with good credit.
  • Customer Account Services has a monthly payment plan per semester.

*Note: Make sure that you have enough funds to pay for all your expenses, before you start the semester. If you can’t pay for fall semester, you won’t be allowed to register for future semesters. Your bill will go to collections, which negatively impacts your credit rating.

Providing parental information on the FAFSA does not make your parents financially responsible for paying your bill at NDSU; it simply allows the Department of Education to calculate your eligibility for the various types of financial aid.

If your parents ARE willing to complete the FAFSA, so you can be considered for all types of aid, complete the following steps: 
  1. Student - Go to https://studentaid.gov/sa/fafsa and do the two following things:
    • change your answer from YES to NO for the question that asks, “Are the student’s parents unwilling to provide their information, but the student doesn’t have an unusual circumstance that prevents them from contacting the parents or obtaining their information?”
    • enter your parent as a contributor of information by entering their email address.
  2. Parent - Click here Creating and Using the FSA ID (StudentAid.gov) to create your own FSA ID. You’ll receive an email in 24-48 hours when your FSA ID is ready, then proceed to step 3. 
  3. Complete the parent/contributor information on the FAFSA and resubmit.

Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

Please email mary.gerardy@ndsu.edu.