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Student Loans

How Being an Emancipated Minor Affects Financial Aid

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be confusing, especially if you’re an independent, emancipated minor.

If you’re under age 24, the government assumes you’re a dependent student for financial aid purposes—and you can’t simply choose to file as independent. Instead, you’ll need to prove you’re truly independent. But sometimes, the question of dependency is murky for emancipated minors. Here’s what you need to know if this applies to you.

Who qualifies as an emancipated minor when applying for financial aid? 

If you were legally emancipated from your parents before reaching the age of majority, you qualify as an emancipated minor by law and when applying for financial aid. Due to your independent status and lack of parental financial support, you could be eligible for more financial aid as an emancipated minor. 

Dependent students must include their parents’ financial information on the FAFSA. This information can affect how much financial aid you qualify for. If your parents are high earners, for example, you’ll likely qualify for less assistance. But if you’re a legally emancipated minor, you won’t need to include your parents’ financial information. 

If you’re under 24, you’ll need to provide documentation for your independent status. This is simple if you’re married or a veteran: You’d provide a copy of your marriage license or DD-214 showing past service.

But living on your own or without financial support from your parents if you’re emancipated isn’t enough to prove independence. Instead, you’ll need to provide proof of your independence. That means having a copy of the judge’s order showing you’re legally emancipated.

How to apply for financial aid as an emancipated minor

Once you’ve provided this, you won’t need to enter your parents’ information on the FAFSA, because you’re considered independent. With independent status, you’ll often receive far more financial aid.

Complete the FAFSA

Regardless of how much financial aid you need or what type of aid you’re hoping for, the FAFSA is your first step. The form has changed for the 2024 – 2025 school year. 

Even if you haven’t reached the age of majority yet, you can complete a FAFSA for your first year of school and alert the federal government and any schools you’re considering attending that you have a special situation.

Question 5 on the FAFSA

You’ll want to pay specific attention to certain questions on the FAFSA if you’re an emancipated minor.

Enter your identity and contact information. Then, on question five, where you’re entering information about your personal circumstances, check the box next to “the student is or was a legally emancipated minor, as determined by a court in their state of residence.”

A screencapture of question five of the FAFSA

Pages 15 –19 on the FAFSA

Once you check that box, you won’t need to complete pages 15 to 19 of the 2024 – 2025 FAFSA, which relate to your parents’ income and assets.

If you receive financial support from legal guardians or foster parents, you should enter it on Worksheet B and include it as personal income.

Contact your school’s financial aid office

Last, make sure to contact the financial aid office of any schools you plan to attend, and inform them of your situation. Because your school determines your financial aid package, it might have specific guidelines to follow as an emancipated minor to maximize your financial aid.

Do emancipated minors get money from the government for college?

No matter your dependency status or whether you’re an emancipated minor, the federal student aid students receive after completing the FAFSA is provided by the Federal Student Aid Office, an arm of the United States Department of Education. Aid can come in the form of federal loans, grants, and work-study funds. 

Colleges and universities determine the amount of federal aid students can qualify for based on their dependency status, assets, and family contributions. So after you apply for federal aid, the individual schools listed on your FAFSA will offer you award packages based on the information you provided. 


The time frame for receiving potential award packages can differ by school, but in general, you can expect to get award information around the same time as admission offer letters. If you have questions about when you might receive a potential award package, reach out to your preferred school’s financial aid office for more information. 

You may qualify for more federal financial aid as an emancipated minor than you would as a dependent student. However, the amount of aid colleges offer depends on your total assets, how much you’re paying toward school, and whether you receive financial support from a legal guardian. 

You aren’t guaranteed to get money from the federal government for college, but if you have a proven financial need, getting support is likely. 

Do emancipated minors go to college for free? 

If you have significant financial need as an emancipated minor, it’s possible your federal student aid package will pay for school entirely. But unless you qualify for several federal grants, which you don’t need to repay, some portion of your federal aid package will likely consist of federal student loans. Federal student loans need to be repaid, and repayment structures vary depending on the loan. 

If you don’t qualify for grants, Direct Subsidized Loans are most students’ next-best option. Up to $3,500 in Subsidized Loans are available for first-year college students. The government pays interest on these loans while you’re in school and during other periods, which isn’t the case with other federal student loans.

Individual colleges will determine whether need-based grants are included in your financial aid package. Applying for federal aid early could help increase your likelihood of qualifying for grants. 

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are for those with exceptional financial need, which could be the case for many emancipated minors. But the maximum Pell Grant for the 2024 – 2025 school year is just $7,395. For context, the average cost of a single year of college for an in-state student is around $26,027, so your college expenses are likely to exceed funds from a Pell Grant. 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

If you have exceptional financial need, you might also be awarded the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). The maximum FSEOG grant for the 2024 – 2025 school year is $4,000 per year.  

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

If you’d like to become a teacher, a TEACH grant could be another option. These grants are available to those pursuing an education degree, and they require that you complete a teaching service requirement and meet other criteria. The maximum grant you can receive in a given year is $4,000, and by law, the amount of the award is reduced by 5.7% each year after.