October is rapidly approaching. Most families know that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, will be available on October 1 for the 2023-2024 academic year. Anyone hoping to qualify for financial aid at the federal, state, or institutional level should be prepared to complete this financial aid application as soon as possible. But some families are surprised to find out that they also have to complete the College Board CSS Profile.
Each year CSS Profile unlocks access to millions of institutional financial aid dollars. Many colleges, universities and scholarship programs use CSS Profile and/or IDOC as part of their financial aid process for some or all of their financial aid applicants. Carefully read your college’s financial aid website page to determine if you are required to complete a CSS Profile, or look at their list of 2023-24 Participating Institutions and Programs. Some schools may also require divorced or separated parents to complete separate applications.
Some colleges and universities require families to submit the CSS Profile every year. Other schools only require the application for the student’s freshman year. Check with each college or university for requirements. Like the FAFSA, CSS Profile is working to make it easier to complete their application. Here is what you need to know if you will be completing a CSS Profile:
- Documents: You’ll need your most recently completed tax returns for 2021, W-2 forms and other records of current year income, records of untaxed income and benefits, assets, and bank statements.
- User Account: If you have a College Board account, sign in using the same credentials. You may already have a College Board account if you have taken the SAT. This will save you time and help apply any fee waivers to your CSS Profile application.
- Save and Return: You do not need to complete the entire application at one time.
- Deadlines: Check your college financial aid deadlines to be sure you get your application submitted on time.
- Tutorial: Watch the CSS Profile Tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
- Fees: The CSS Profile is free to domestic undergraduate students whose family income is up to $100,000. Fee Waivers may be available based on income. If you do not receive a Fee Waiver, the fee for the initial application is $25. Additional reports are $16. Payment may be made via credit or debit card.
- Dashboard: Your dashboard includes your payment receipt and any next steps, such as uploading documents through the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC). You may also add additional schools at any time by clicking on “Add a College or Program.” Be sure to check your Dashboard regularly.
- Mistakes: If you make a mistake on your application or need to include additional information after you submit, you can update your application by clicking “Correct Your CSS Profile” on your Dashboard.
- CSS Profile for Non-Custodial Parents: This can be a big issue for families with divorced or separated parents, as some colleges may require the non-custodial parent is required to provide financial information. This requirement is based on the belief that the parents are first responsible for their student’s educational costs. If students do not have contact with the non-custodial parent, a CSS Profile Waiver Request for the Noncustodial Parent is available to provide to colleges.
- Reporting Parents: CSS Profile is more in-depth about reporting the various familial relationships. You may be asked to provide information about step-parents as well as biological or adoptive parents.
Students who choose not to submit a CSS Profile might not receive financial aid to which they might otherwise be entitled. It is worth investing the time to complete all applications.
We consult with students and parents to plan for every step of the college financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Schedule a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my bi-weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.