Higher Education, FAFSA

Financial Aid for Youth Who are Homeless (or At Risk of Homelessness) and On Their Own

Use this flowchart to determine if you qualify as independent on the FAFSA as an unaccompanied homeless youth. This resource also provides examples of who can make this determination and email templates.

For definitions of homelessness, click here.

Download the Flowchart (PDF) Download the Flowchart in Spanish (PDF)

You do not need to provide your parents’ information on the FAFSA if you are:

If you meet all of these criteria, you are considered an independent student for the FAFSA, because you meet the definition of an “unaccompanied homeless youth. To complete your FAFSA, you will need one of the following people to determine your status as an unaccompanied homeless youth.

  1. McKinney-Vento liaison or their designee.
    • If you were identified as homeless in high school by a McKinney-Vento liaison or another high school staff member who knew about your homelessness, you might have received a determination in high school. Your liaison can make this determination for you each year of college if you continue to meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth, and if the liaison knows enough about your situation to make a determination. Financial aid administrators are required to accept a written document from your liaison, or simply document a phone call with your liaison, unless they have conflicting information. Reach out to your high school and ask for the McKinney-Vento liaison’s contact information. Use the ‘Email Template to McKinney-Vento Liaisons/Designee Requesting a Determination Letter’ below to request a determination from the liaison.
  2. Director or designee of a director of a program or shelter that serves individuals experiencing homelessness.
    • If you stayed at an emergency shelter or transitional shelter, street outreach program, homeless youth drop-in center, or any other program serving individuals experiencing homelessness, you can request a determination from the director or designee of a director. Financial aid administrators are required to accept this documentation, unless they have conflicting information. Reach out to the shelter or program you utilized and ask for the Director’s contact information. Use the ‘Email Template to a Program or Shelter that Serves Individuals Experiencing Homelessness Requesting a Determination Letter’ below to request a determination.
  3. Director or designee of a director of a TRIO or GEAR UP program. 
    • If you participated in a TRIO or GEAR UP program, you can request a determination from the director or designee of a director. Financial aid administrators are required to accept this determination, unless they have conflicting information. Reach out to the TRIO or GEAR UP program and ask for the Director’s contact information. Use the ‘Email Template to TRIO or GEAR UP Program Requesting a Determination Letter’ below to request a determination.
  4. Financial aid administrator at current institution or another institution who previously made a determination.
    • If you were at another institution of higher education and a financial aid administrator made an unaccompanied homeless youth determination, use the ‘Email Template to Past Financial Aid Administrators Requesting Documented Interview for Independent Status‘ below to ask for documentation. If you do not have, and cannot obtain, a determination from any of the people above, your financial aid administrator must make a determination based on the definitions of unaccompanied and homeless, or unaccompanied, self-supporting, and at risk of homelessness. Financial aid administrators must make determination based on a documented interview with you, or a written statement from you. The goal of this conversation or a written statement from you is to determine if you meet these definitions, not to determine or assess the reasons why you are experiencing homelessness. Please use the ‘Email Template to Financial Aid Administrators Requesting Documented Interview for Independent Status’ below to request a documented interview with or provide a written statement to your financial administrator.

Email Templates

Other Tips for Communicating

When requesting financial aid documents, it is important to keep detailed records of all conversations you have and with whom you speak. Here are some tips for requesting financial aid documents or information:

1. Use your University email address or a reliable email address whenever possible.

2. In the subject line of each email, be sure to include your first and last name and a few words about what you are asking or requesting. For example, “John William’s Financial Aid Letter Request” You can also include your Student ID number when it applies.

3. If you speak on the phone with someone, consider writing notes in an email while you are on the call and sending it to yourself as a reminder of what happened on the phone call.

4. Follow-up each week as needed if you have not gotten a response, or if you need additional assistance.

5. Consider moving all financial aid emails into a folder titled “FAFSA,” so that you can quickly access them when needed.