For many students, one of the most confusing parts of the college application process is financial aid. Applying for financial aid can be even more complicated if you have a noncustodial parent as this leads to lots of extra papers and stress. Based on a combination of personal experience and talking to others who have been through the process, here are six problems concerning noncustodial parents (specifically noncustodial waivers)and financial aid along with the solutions to each of them.
Problem 1: “I have no contact with my noncustodial parent and can’t get their information for financial aid forms.”
Solution: If you have not had contact with this noncustodial parent for an extended period of time (think several years), there is a good chance that you won’t have to report their information. If this applies to you, you should look into obtaining a noncustodial waiver for each school that you are applying to that requires the CSS Profile (know that most schools that only require FAFSA do not require your noncustodial parent’s financial information).
Problem 2: “I don’t know how to obtain noncustodial waivers.”
Solution: You can usually find information regarding a specific school’s process of getting a noncustodial waiver by going on the financial aid portion of their website. If this doesn’t work you should try searching “(school name) noncustodial waiver” on a search engine like Google. If you still can’t find the information you can email (or call) the financial aid office and ask them how you can obtain a noncustodial waiver. Know that you will often need supporting documents including letters from third party people (so not related to you), which brings me to the third common problem.
Problem 3: “My family tends to be private about the situation with my noncustodial parent and I don’t have anybody to write my third party letter(s) for noncustodial waivers.”
Solution: There is no way around this third party letter so you will need to find somebody to write (some schools even require two third party letters). Your best bet is to go to somebody from your school (often a school guidance counselor or social worker) who is somewhat familiar with your situation and to further explain what has happened and ask if they are willing to write a letter for you. Other good options could be people like a coach who you have been working with for several years.
Problem 4: “I can’t find a deadline for the noncustodial waiver; I have no idea when I need to submit the waiver by.”
Solution: The truth is most schools don’t have a hard deadline for noncustodial waivers. That being said if you submit the waiver on the late end there is a good chance that your financial aid package will be delayed. It might seem annoying but you should try and submit all of the waivers by the financial aid deadlines for each school you are applying to (usually by February 1). This will ensure that when April comes around you won’t be deciding without knowing your financial aid.
Problem 5: “I submitted my noncustodial waiver over a month ago and still haven’t heard anything; I am getting really worried about the whole situation.”
Solution: Colleges can take a really long time to respond regarding your request for a noncustodial waiver (as in upwards of several months) and notify in a variety of ways (usually by email and/or physical mail). If you are concerned you can call or email financial aid and ask how long it generally takes the school to respond regarding noncustodial waivers. If you are well past that time you can also ask if it is possible to find out the status of your request for a noncustodial waiver. Remember, just because it is taking a while to hear from the school doesn’t mean that you won’t get the waiver.
Problem 6: “My request for a noncustodial waiver was denied, but I genuinely have no contact with my noncustodial parent and don’t know what to do now.”
Solution: This is not an ideal situation but your best bet is to reach out to the school(s). Ask if there is any way to have your request reconsidered and if you can submit additional supporting document (more reason to get an extra third party letter or two). If you haven’t already and the school will let you, also submit a letter that you have written explaining your perspective and the situation with your noncustodial parent.
The process of dealing with financial aid when you have a noncustodial parent can be rather tedious and complex, but don’t worry you will get through it. Be proactive and stay organized; it will make the process so much easier!