Overview of the CSS Profile Form for Financial Aid

Should You Use It to Apply for Non-Federal Financial Aid?

When it comes to financial aid, the CSS Profile form is often confused with FAFSA form. While there are many differences between the CSS Profile form and the FAFSA form, the main difference is the type of aid they help you to apply for.

The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE is another financial information form some schools may ask you to complete in addition to the FAFSA. Check the list of requirements for each school your child is applying to, and also be sure to pay close attention to their admission deadlines.

If your child is applying for early decision or early action, you may need to work on your CSS PROFILE earlier. 

The CSS Profile, a service of the College Board, is used by students to apply for non-federal financial aid at over 600 universities. The PROFILE is a bit more detailed than the FAFSA, and includes a few more questions. In other words, the CSS is used to apply for scholarships and programs offered by individual schools. The FAFSA, on the other hand, is used to apply for federal programs such as Stafford and Perkins Loans, as well as Pell Grants.

Unlike the FAFSA, which is free to complete, the CSS Profile form costs $25 to create and submit to one school. Additional schools costs $16 per submission. A limited amount of fee waivers are available to low-income families.

Since the CSS Profile form only covers a certain group of schools, you should check the Participating Programs List before you spend the time and money to apply.

While the CSS Profile form has no specific deadline, you should submit it at least two weeks before the financial aid deadline at your school.

CSS Aid Eligibility

Whereas federal financial aid is calculated based on a strict formula across all students nationwide, the CSS Profile form allows colleges to calculate aid eligibility for their own programs based on whatever criteria they set.

Hence, the questions on one school’s CSS Profile may vary dramatically from another school’s.

Because the CSS Profile form is for private scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs, the schools are permitted to consider other factors not considered on the FAFSA form. These include items such as the value of a parent’s home, insurance contract values and annual retirement plan contributions.

Completing the CSS Profile Form

The steps for completing the CSS PROFILE include:

  1. Gather Information: Pull together financial information including tax returns, information on temporary assistance or Supplemental Security Income, W2 forms, bank statements, mortgage information, and records of untaxed information. It’s a lot to do now, but it will make things easier in January for the FAFSA.
  2. Register: Visit the College Board website and register for the CSS PROFILE. Your application is tailored to your family situation and the colleges or programs you select. You can securely save your application and return to complete it at any time.
  1. Complete the Application: There is a customized Pre-Application Worksheet you can use to help you complete the PROFILE. As you answer questions, the system will automatically provide online help and edits to minimize mistakes.
  2. Submit the Application: You will be able to pay online and will receive an online acknowledgement of your application. Read the acknowledgement carefully to see if there are any additional steps you must take.

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