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Articles / Applying to College / Must Stepfather's Income Be Part of Financial Aid Formula?

Must Stepfather's Income Be Part of Financial Aid Formula?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 5, 2011

Question: My mother got remarried several years ago. My stepfather is the only one who works, and he makes too much money for us to qualify for financial aid. Can I just use my mother's information when filling out my financial aid forms?

Unfortunately, if your mother is your custodial parent and she is remarried, your stepfather's income will be included in your financial aid calculations, even if he isn't going to be the one paying for your education. So if your stepfather makes too much money, you will not qualify for aid, even if your mother herself has little or no income. I realize that this is a raw deal for many families, but that's how it works and you have no wiggle room to get around this rule.


If, however, you have a father who makes less money than your stepdad and he can be named as your custodial parent rather than your mother, then you might have a better shot at getting financial aid. Otherwise, I'm afraid you're stuck. You can, however, apply to colleges where you qualify for "merit aid," since these awards are usually not based on income.

(posted 1/4/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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