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Tales from the Field: Filling out the FAFSA

How can we support MV students when they need to fill out the FAFSA form for college?

The Tale:

A call was made to the NYSTEACHS helpline, where the caller wanted more information on completing the FAFSA for an unaccompanied homeless youth. The caller shared that their nephew is living with them temporarily. The student arrived from his home country and does not have any other family members in the state. Since he is currently a senior in high school, he is also preparing to apply for college. This student is a U.S. citizen. The caller was assisting him in completing the FAFSA application but was unsure how to continue when the application asked for a determination letter. The caller wanted assistance in learning about determination letters, and who were the responsible parties in writing one. The caller also wanted to know how their nephew could receive fee waivers for college applications.

In this Tale, we are determining that the student is McKinney-Vento eligible because he is an unaccompanied homeless youth. If you need more information on determining eligibility please see Resource #1 below!


  1. What is a determination letter?

  2. Who writes a determination letter?

  3. How does a student receive college application waivers?



Question 1: What is a determination letter?

When a student or designee is completing a FAFSA application, there are general questions about the student's housing status. If the student meets the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth, further documentation may be required. A determination letter is such an example of documentation that can be provided as proof of this status. Please note that the FAFSA application can still be submitted if the student cannot obtain a determination letter. The student may then request a homeless youth determination from the financial aid administrator at the college the student plans to attend. As of November 2022 under the FAFSA Simplification Act, students are no longer required to submit a determination letter every year to redetermine their homeless status.

Question 2: Who writes a determination letter?

Question 3: How does a student receive college application waivers?

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