Login Identity Protection Build Credit Pricing Employers Support Schools Parents PTAs PTOs and Education Foundations  Superintendents, Business Officers, and School Boards Resources About Us Contact Us Education Center Press Releases In the News FAQ
Resources > FAFSA > Biggest FAFSA Questions About Parents and How To Answer Them

Biggest FAFSA Questions About Parents and How To Answer Them

Over 17 million students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year for a chance to obtain federal loans, grants, and other types of financial aid for their chosen college. While you can answer most questions on the form in about an hour or so, some parent-related questions may be confusing.

Answering any questions wrong or being unable to provide an answer can delay the application process and potentially impact the amount of financial aid you’re awarded. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the biggest and trickiest FAFSA questions about parents and help you answer them correctly.

Should You Answer Questions About Your Parents on FAFSA?

If you’re considered a dependent student according to the FAFSA dependency guidelines, you must provide your legal parent’s information when filling out the form. If you’re an independent student, you only have to provide your information, as well as your spouse’s information, in case you’re married.

You’re a dependent student if you’re supported by your parents. In this case, your parent’s information is assessed along with your own to gain comprehensive insight into your family’s financial resources. However, being a dependent student doesn’t mean your family has to pay for your college education—their information is only required to determine your maximum financial aid eligibility.

Who Is Your Parent on the FAFSA?

The parent whose information you should include on your FAFSA is called a contributor. This is a new term introduced on the 2024–25 FAFSA form, and it refers to the person who provides the largest portion of your financial support. This could be you, your biological/adoptive parent, your spouse, or your parent’s spouse. The contributor is required to provide information on the FAFSA form, sign it, and consent to having their federal tax information transferred from the IRS into the form.

Here’s how to determine which parent’s information to include when completing the FAFSA form if your parents are:

  • Married—If your parents are married and living together, you must include both of their information, whether they’re in a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage. If your parents didn’t file taxes jointly, they’re both contributors, but only one parent is required to be a contributor if they did file jointly
  • Unmarried but live together—In this case, both of your parents are contributors, and you must include their information on the FAFSA form, regardless of whether they’re of the same or opposite sex
  • Divorced, separated, or never married, and don’t live together—In this situation, the parent who provided more financial support in the last 12 months is the contributor. However, if both parents provided the same amount of financial support or didn’t provide financial support at all, the parent with the greater income and assets is the contributor and needs to provide their information
  • Widowed—The widowed parent is the contributor and has to provide their information on the FAFSA form

What if You Have a Stepparent?

Your stepparent is only identified as your parent for FAFSA purposes if they’ve legally adopted you. Otherwise, they’ll be considered as a parent spouse contributor. If your stepparent was married to your parent and is now widowed, they still aren’t considered your parent on your FAFSA form unless they’ve legally adopted you.

Your stepparent isn’t considered your parent when answering questions regarding:

  1. Whether either of your parents attended college
  2. Whether your parent was killed in the line of duty

In these cases, your parents are considered to be your birth or adoptive parents.

How To Fill Out the Trickiest FAFSA Questions About Parents

Some FAFSA parent questions are straightforward, and you shouldn’t have any problems answering them once you determine your contributor. These include questions regarding the contributor’s:

However, there are several questions that may be confusing to answer. These are related to specific scenarios regarding your relationship with your parents or reporting information like income and assets. The trickiest questions to answer include: 

  1. Who is parent 1 on the FAFSA?
  2. Who does my household size include?
  3. Which parent’s income do I include on the FAFSA?
  4. Do I have to report assets on the FAFSA?
  5. What do I do if I’m unable to provide parents’ information?
  6. What if I have no contact with my parents?
  7. What information should I include if I don’t live with my parents?
  8. What if my parents won’t provide their information on the FAFSA form?

Who Is Parent 1 on the FAFSA?

It typically doesn’t matter which parent you designate as parent 1 and parent 2 on the FAFSA application. FAFSA uses this gender-neutral terminology to avoid using terms like mother and father in case your parents are in a same-sex marriage, so it doesn’t matter which parent completes which set of questions. This distinction is only used for organizing the provided information.

Who Does My Household Size Include?

Your household size isn’t necessarily the number of people you live with but the number of people that your family supports financially. It’s important to report this information correctly as it will impact the amount of financial aid you receive. If you’re a dependent student, your household size includes:

  1. You and your parents
  2. All children under 24 living with your parents and receiving over half of their support from them
  3. Your parent’s children who may be born during the school year
  4. Children or siblings away at college and/or in the military service who receive over half of their support from your parents
  5. Any other family members, such as elderly relatives, who will receive more than half of their support from your parents between July 1 and June 30 of the school year you’re awarded financial aid in

Which Parent’s Income Do I Include on the FAFSA?

Independent students don’t have to include their parents’ income on the FAFSA form. If you’re a dependent student, though, you have to report income for both of your legal parents—biological or adopted.

However, including your parents’ income on the FAFSA form may vary depending on special-case scenarios like divorce or separation:

  1. If your parents are divorced or separated but live together, you must report the income from both parents
  2. If they’re divorced or separated and don’t live together, you should only include the income from the parent you lived with the most during the last 12-month period 
  3. If you have a stepparent who’s married to your legal parent, you must also include their income

You don’t have to include the income of any other people you may live with (like your grandparents) on your application unless they’re your legal parents.

Do I Have To Report Assets on the FAFSA?

Assets refer to anything your family owns, like vehicles, houses, businesses, investment accounts, and savings accounts. While some types of assets don’t have to be reported on the FAFSA, others do—and they can impact the amount of financial aid you’ll get. The assets you’re required to list on your FAFSA application include:

  • The cash on hand and the funds your family has in checking and savings account(s) on the day you file the FAFSA
  • Financial assets or investments like stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), money market accounts, mutual funds, commodities, precious metals, exchange-traded funds (ETF), hedge funds, trust funds, private equity, etc.
  • Any real estate besides the family home and real estate investment trusts, loans held, and installment contracts
  • Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts, which are reported as your assets and not the parent’s
  • College savings plans like 529 plans, prepaid tuition plans, or Coverdell ESA, which are reported as an asset of the account owner, not the beneficiary

Some of the assets you don’t have to include on the FAFSA include:

  • The net worth of your family home and family farm 
  • Qualified retirement plans like traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, pension plans, etc.
  • Life insurance policies
  • Personal possessions like furniture, books, cars, jewelry, computer equipment, etc.

What Do I Do if I’m Unable To Provide Parents’ Information?

You may not have to report your parents’ income and other parental information on the FAFSA form in the following special circumstances:

  • One or both of your parents are incarcerated
  • You left an abusive family environment
  • You don’t know where your parents are, and you weren’t adopted
  • You’re between ages 21 and 24, and you’re homeless or could become homeless
  • You’re an independent student

If you’re unable to report your parents’ information, you should send a written explanation of your situation to your college’s financial aid office to increase your chances of getting loans, grants, or scholarships.

What if I Have No Contact With My Parents?

If you have no way of contacting your parents, you don’t know where they live, or you left home due to abuse, you should answer “Yes” to this question on the FAFSA form: “Do unusual circumstances prevent the student from contacting their parents, or would contacting their parents pose a risk to the student?” 

If you answer “Yes,” you’ll be considered an independent student, and you’ll only need to include your information on the application form (and your spouse’s information if you’re married). You should also contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend and ask about the supporting documentation you may need to submit directly to the school to complete the application successfully.

What Information Should I Include if I Don’t Live With My Parents?

As long as you’re considered a dependent student, you must report your parents’ information on the FAFSA form, even if you live alone or with another family member. Unless they’ve legally adopted you, these people aren’t considered your parents for FAFSA purposes:

  • Grandparents
  • Foster parents
  • Uncles or aunts
  • Legal guardians
  • Widowed stepparents
  • Older brothers or sisters

What if My Parents Won’t Provide Their Information on the FAFSA?

Your parents refusing to help you with the FAFSA application process isn’t a sufficient reason for you to be considered an independent student. If you’re in this situation, you can submit the FAFSA without parent information by marking your parents as unwilling to provide their information on the corresponding question on the form.

However, if you do so, you’d most likely only be able to get an unsubsidized Direct Loan as having no parent information on your FAFSA prevents you from having your Student Aid Index (SAI) calculated. This measure, which has replaced the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on the 2024–2025 FAFSA form, largely depends on parent income information, and many types of financial aid look at your SAI to determine eligibility.

Does the FAFSA Require Your Parents’ Credit Check?

There are usually no credit checks when you’re applying for federal student aid, so you don’t have to include your or your parent’s credit information when completing the FAFSA form. However, there are certain types of student loans that do require credit checks:

Type of LoanExplanation
Direct PLUS loansThese federal loans are designed for professional or graduate students (Grad PLUS) or their parents (Parent PLUS), and one of their eligibility requirements is a good credit score. If your or your parent’s credit score doesn’t meet the lender’s standards, you may not be able to obtain the loan
Private student loansPrivate student loans are typically considered additional financial aid if federal financial aid and scholarships aren’t enough. Private lenders usually check your credit to see if you’re eligible for a loan, and they may also consider your cosigner’s credit score

While you may get federal financial aid regardless of your credit history, building and maintaining good credit can help you ensure more college financing options. A strong credit score also helps you save money in the long run and improves your chances of:

  • Obtaining rental housing
  • Receiving financing for a car, home, or credit card
  • Getting better job opportunities

A great way to build credit early is to rely on a credit building service like the one offered by FreeKick. While the CARD Act of 2009 makes it challenging for anyone under 21 to obtain a credit card and establish a credit score, FreeKick goes around this limitation by offering parent-sponsored credit building for children as young as 13.

FreeKick—Premium Credit Building and ID Protection

FreeKick is an FDIC-insured deposit account and subscription service provided by Austin Capital Bank that helps young adults and minors between the ages of 13 and 25 build credit with their parents’ help. The platform also provides identity monitoring and protection services for the whole family of up to two adult parents and six children.

Start Building Credit Early With FreeKick

An early start in credit building can help you potentially save more than $200,000 in your lifetime by increasing your chances of obtaining loans with favorable interest rates and terms. This is why FreeKick lets you start building credit from the age of 13 through parent-sponsored credit building. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Create an Account—With your parents’ help, go to FreeKick.bank and choose a plan that fits your family’s needs by considering the amount of deposit and annual fee tradeoff
  2. Set It and Forget It—Once the account is activated, FreeKick automatically starts building your credit over the next 12-month period
  3. Keep Growing—When the first 12 months end, your parents can either renew the account and keep building your credit or close it and get a refund of your initial deposit

Keep Your Identity Protected With FreeKick

If you don’t protect your personal information, identity criminals may steal your information and use it to apply for financial aid, making your application invalid. Alarming data shows that a child’s identity is stolen every 30 seconds, and college students are among the groups most frequently targeted by identity criminals.

To reduce your chances of falling victim to FAFSA fraud, FreeKick offers comprehensive identity monitoring and protection features for both adults and minors:

Services for Adult Children and ParentsServices for Minor Children
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Lost wallet protection
Court records monitoring
Change of address monitoring
Non-credit (Payday) loan monitoring
Free FICO® Score monthly
FICO® Score factors
Experian credit report monthly
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for children’s personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Sex offender monitoring—based on sponsor parent’s address

FreeKick Pricing

Regardless of your family budget, FreeKick offers a plan that fits your needs. Both available plans are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. Find more details in the table below:

FDIC-Insured Deposit AmountPlan Fee
$3,000$0 (Free)
No deposit$149/year

Start building credit early to secure your financial future and protect yourself and your family from identity theft—sign up for FreeKick today.