I am a senior in high school and I have begun to apply to college. I'm filling out the coalition and common application, and I don't know what to put for parent income or involvement. My situation is hard to describe to colleges, so I am wondering if anyone here can help me do so.
My parents got divorced when I was in the 4th grade and I lived a pretty normal life. I spent 50% of the time at my dad's house, and 50% at my mom's (her boyfriend's) house. Unfortunately, my mom and dad both have mental health and substance abuse issues, and so what began as normal quickly transitioned to unstable. I don't want to go into detail on a public forum, but there were often fights and the police came quite a few times.
My parents had difficulty caring for themselves, and I try not to blame them, but my sister and I struggled to cope and faced a lot of (what I know was unintentional) mental abuse. I had to take care of my sister, and we often went with whatever parent was most "stable."
When I turned 16, and finally had transportation, I completely took over and became my sister's "mom." We stayed with my dad, but only when he has work (as to avoid spending time with him), as my mom's mental health issues increasingly worsened. When my dad was home we stayed with my mom, and her boyfriend (who tries very hard to help my mother, but can also contribute to the problem). To put it broadly, my sister and I took on a schedule best fit for survival, and our relationship with our parents deteriorated.
My dad has firmly decided to cut us off at eighteen, and my mom thinks we hate her, though when she is in a "good state" she tries her best to help my sister and I.
My dad supports me financially now, but this is out of a contractural obligation set forth when he and my mother divorce, and I know with almost 100% certainty that the only money I have for college is whatever was set aside when I was younger (10,000 dollars) and the money I have saved by working three jobs. I am 17 now and I no longer want my mother and father to have legal control over me, so this month my dad agreed to assist me in filing for emancipation.
As I apply to different colleges, I don't know what to do about inputting my parent's information. My dad makes a decent salary (more than 100k per year) and my mom does not make very much at all. I feel like the worst daughter in the world for saying this and I have crushing guilt over it, but I need to get far away from my parents because they have destroyed my mental health and I need to make something of myself.
I know they will not contribute to my college costs, and the knowledge that I will be expected to pay exorbitant amounts because of my father's salary gives me major anxiety and I feel lost. He refuses to support me once I turn 18 and I am emancipating myself, but because I stayed at his house when my mother was abusive, I am expected to include his financial information as though he can contribute to my projected college costs. I don't know what to do, or what to say to financial aid departments. I know there are kids that have it worse than I do and deserve financial aid, but I know that the only option I will have is loans that I can't even begin to pay because my parents are cutting me off. I have worked three jobs to try to cut into this before I even get to college, but that won't even begin to cover it.
I have worked so hard all my life and my counselor thinks I am good enough to get into Dartmouth or Vanderbilt, my dream schools, but I know that with my dad being considered as an income source, I don't have any chance at decent financial aid and I will be forced to stay at a community college because it is all I can afford. Is there anything that I can do?