If you are applying for financial aid at a private college or university that makes institutional awards to students, then you will be asked to fill out the CSS / Financial Aid PROFILE application. The CSS Profile (as most people call it) is aservice of the College Board, a national, not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity.
Over 600 of the College Board’s member colleges, universities, graduate schools, and scholarship programs use the information collected on the CSS Profile application to help them award nonfederal student aid funds. Federal student aid is determined by the FAFSA application.
When Do You File the CSS Profile?
Generally, you may file the Profile application as early as October 1st of the year preceding the next school year. Individual colleges have their own final deadlines. You should file no later than two weeks before the earliest priority filing date specified by your college or program.
How Do You File the CSS Profile?
Completing the Profile application requires you to have a secure browser and, because there is a fee, either a valid credit card or checking account. Unlike the FAFSA, there is no option to file a paper form.
If you do not have a computer at home, register for your Profile application online at your high school or local library. Then print the Pre-Application Worksheet and Instructions. Return to your high school or library and enter the information by logging back into your application using your secure username and password.
What Does the CSS Profile Cost?
As of this writing, the fee for the initial application and one college or program report is $25. To send additional reports costs $16 per college. A limited number of fee waivers are granted to U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens who are first-time college applicants and who are from families with very low income and assets.
What Information Do You Need?
When you register, you’ll need to assemble the following information. If you find that you are missing something, you can save your application and return to it later:
• The type of tax return you and your parent(s) will file for the current year (e.g., 1040, 1040 EZ, foreign return, etc.).
• Documentation if your parents receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income).
• Documentation if your parents are self-employed or own business(es) and/or farm(s).
• Your parents’ housing status (e.g., own, rent).
• Your personal information, including your Social Security number.
Once you register online, you will find detailed instructions and an extensive Help Desk, including Frequently Asked Questions.
What Information Does the CSS Profile Ask For?
Colleges use the Profile to calculate your Expected Family Share (EFS) of your cost of education. The EFS represents the Profile’s best estimate of your family’s capacity (relative to other families) to absorb, over time, the costs of education including tuition, housing, and fees. Consequently, the Profile asks for a fuller range of information than FAFSA. The Profile collects information on estimated academic year family income, medical expenses, elementary and secondary school tuition, and unusual circumstances. The Profile may include in family income any paper depreciation, business, rental, or capital losses that can reduce adjusted gross income.
Some colleges may require additional information, such as tax returns or an institutional application. If your parents are divorced, some colleges will also require your noncustodial parent to complete the Noncustodial CSS Profile.
Remember, the College Board does not award financial aid. Your college makes the decision to award institutional financial aid.
The CSS Profile is a necessary step for many students and their families who wish to explore their financial aid opportunities. So get busy! Browse through Education-for-Careers.com, compare schools, and make your applications. Then, if the school offers institutional financial aid, ask your financial aid office about filling out your CSS Profile. You may be eligible for financial aid – but you’ll never know unless you apply.