Paying for College

Getting Financial Aid Without Dad's Info

Question: I have recently applied for financial aid via the FAFSA, with the hope of getting the loan or grant I need to attend my local community college. However, my situation is somewhat complicated, because I am technically classified as dependent, but I cannot provide information on my father, since I lost contact with him a while ago when my parents divorced. My mother does not have a source of income, and therefore my parental info may seem insufficient. All I can provide is details on myself and was wondering if this would affect my chances of getting financial aid. What are the chances that FAFSA and the college will accept my application

for financial aid?

I consulted with financial aid expert Ann Playe (former associate director of admission and financial aid at Smith College, among other distinctions). She replied:

She should write a letter explaining the circumstances--that her father has not been in contact with her (she should specify number of years), and that he does not provide support to her or her mother. But, she should also explain how her mother is living, if she filed a FAFSA that showed no income for Mom, because the college will want an explanation.

Most financial aid officials have some leeway when it comes to awarding aid when there are extenuating circumstances. But in order to get this consideration, you will--as Ann suggests--have to provide the admission officials with an understanding of how your mother currently covers her expenses.

Sometimes students are embarrassed to divulge the true source of family income. But, trust me, financial folks are a lot like doctors ... there are very few scenarios they haven't seen.