FAFSA, Higher Education

How to Answer FAFSA Questions About Homelessness

This resource will help you navigate answering the questions about homelessness and how to request an unaccompanied homeless youth determination.

Are you filling out the FAFSA for the first time? Are you also an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or at risk of being homeless and self-supporting? If so, you will need to provide information about your status on the FAFSA.

Related: Does My Living Situation Meet the Definition of Homelessness?

This resource will help you navigate answering the questions about homelessness and how to request an unaccompanied homeless youth determination.

Fill Out the FAFSA

You must fill out a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year that you’re applying for financial aid. The 2024-2025 FAFSA is a completely new form with many changes, including:

  • Fewer questions
  • An expansion of Pell Grant eligibility for low-income students, and
  • Changes for homeless and foster youth that are designed to remove barriers and streamline the process of applying for financial aid

In the first few sections of the FAFSA, you will enter your personal and demographic information. You will then be asked the following questions:

Question: At any time on or after July 1, 2023, were you homeless or were you self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

If you meet the definition of homelessness described HERE, you can answer YES to this question.

If your situation falls into one of the categories found here and you are not in the physical custody (living with) a parent or guardian, your living situation meets the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth and you do not need to enter your parent or guardian’s information on your FAFSA. 

If you are experiencing homelessness but living with and/or receiving support from your parents, you will answer NO to the following questions, because you do not meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth. You will fill out the FAFSA as instructed.

If you answer YES, another question will pop up. 

Question: Did any of the following determine you were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless? 

If you think you have, had, or can get a determination of homelessness from YOUR HIGH SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT HOMELESS LIAISON OR THEIR DESIGNEE, here is what you will do:

  • Check the box THE STUDENT’S HIGH SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT LIAISON OR DESIGNEE
  • After you complete your FAFSA, reach out to your homeless liaison and request a determination stating you are an unaccompanied homeless youth. If you’d like to send an email requesting the determination, we have provided a sample email you can use here. Give this determination to your financial aid office. 

If you stayed in or received services from a drop-in center, shelter, or any other program that serves individuals experiencing homelessness on or after July 1, 2023, here is what you will do:

Reminder:

This category also includes homeless higher education liaisons. See here if your institution or state has designated homeless higher education liaisons.

If you think you are part of a TRIO or GEAR UP program, here is what you do:

If you were determined to be an unaccompanied homeless youth on the FAFSA by a financial aid administrator at another institution, here is what you do: 

If you meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth, but cannot provide any documentation from any of the authorized entities, you will answer NONE OF THE ABOVE, and this screen will pop up. 

Note:

Although this screen says you are a provisionally independent student, you are waiting to be determined as an unaccompanied homeless youth and should go through the unaccompanied homeless youth determination process outlined in the law.

Here is what you will do next: 

If you have an unusual circumstance where you cannot provide information about your parents but are not an unaccompanied homeless youth, you may be considered a provisional independent student and go through a dependency override. 

Note:

Many of the reasons listed above are frequently the cause, or contributing factors to youth homelessness, so consider if you may meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth, or unaccompanied youth at risk of homelessness and self-supporting. If that is the case, return back to the previous question.

Dependency overrides are granted on a case-by-case basis in which a financial aid officer will use their professional judgment. Provisional independent student status and unaccompanied homeless youth determinations are different and distinct and should not be conflated.  

FAQs

These FAQs are real questions that we receive from youth experiencing homelessness while filling out the FAFSA. If you have a FAFSA-related question, please contact us.