For the first time, the form provides an option for dependent students to describe their parents' marital status as "unmarried and both parents living together."
The 2014-2015 FAFSA form, which became available on Jan. 1, can be completed online ( www.fafsa.gov).
State deadlines vary, so be sure to check online, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243 or 1-319-337-5665); or, for the hearing impaired, the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913.
Study the financial aid rules to determine who is considered a parent. Here are three questions that students should consider to determine whose financial information to include:
Do your parents live together? If so, you should answer the questions about both of them.
If not, where do you live? The FAFSA requires you to answer the questions about the parent you lived with most during the past year.
Is one parent remarried? You also must report your stepparent's income and assets on the FAFSA.
Dependent students must complete financial information for their parents, even if the parent will not help pay for college.
Students have to meet certain criteria to be declared independent. For example, they must be at least 24 years old, a graduate student, a veteran, an orphan, homeless, or have a child to support, according to student lender Sallie Mae spokeswoman Nikki Lavoie. Sallie Mae also has information at www.collegeanswer.com/fafsa, or call the Newark, Del.-based firm at 1-888-272-5543.
Finally, eligibility for federal student aid does not carry over from one award year to the next. Therefore, students must reapply for aid each award year. If they want to receive federal student aid for the 2014-2015 award year (July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015), they must submit a 2014-2015 FAFSA.