Do You Need to Complete a CSS PROFILE?

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As your child prepares to apply to various colleges, you may be aware that you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That form isn’t even available online until January, so you think you have plenty of time, but then you find out that one of the schools also wants a completed CSS PROFILE – what’s that?

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 now. It should be filed no later than two weeks before the earliest deadline you are using, in case you are asked to supply additional information.

While the FAFSA is developed by the Department of Education, the PROFILE comes from the College Board’s College Scholarship Service (CSS). The main difference is that the FAFSA is used primarily for federal financial aid purposes, while some schools use the PROFILE to determine eligibility for non-federal financial aid and some scholarships. The PROFILE is a bit more detailed than the FAFSA, and includes a few more questions.

There is a fee of $25 for the initial application and one college or program report, and a fee of $16 for additional reports. Fee waivers for up to eight colleges or scholarship programs are granted automatically for low-income students, based on the information entered on the application.  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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Financial Aid Forms Shouldn’t be Frightening

Even though Halloween is coming, you don’t need to get scared by the CSS PROFILE. Contact a professional College Financial Aid Advisor, who can help you gather information and complete the form properly. For more information, contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA) or visit my About.com website, Paying for College.