With October 1 approaching, my last blog explained the differences and updates you might expect when filing a FAFSA for the 2021-22 academic year. It is one of the primary ways to apply for financial aid from federal, state and institutional sources.
Almost 400 participating colleges, universities, and scholarship programs will also ask you to complete the CSS Profile from College Board as part of their financial aid process. It requires more detailed financial information, especially in the case of non-custodial divorced parents, and is also available to international students. The CSS Profile Overview provides detailed explanations, but here are some quick points about what you need to know to complete this year’s application:
• Timeframe: The CSS Profile will be available beginning October 1, 2020, but it is highly recommended that you submit your information early, and definitely no later than two weeks before the deadlines specified by your colleges.
• Getting Started: Visit org to create your College Board account. The student may already have an account from the SAT, but parents may need to set up an account as well. After signing in to the 2021-2022 application you will find a list of documents you’ll need to provide the requested information.
• Completing the Application: The CSS Profile builds an application for you as you answer the various questions. Access the tutorials for step-by-step instructions. There is help available within the application itself or you can also request assistance via chat, telephone or email.
• Submitting the Application: Your completed application will be considered as submitted based on Eastern Time. Be aware of this if you are cutting it close to your school’s deadline.
• Watch Your Dashboard: Keep an eye on your dashboard in case there are any requests to submit pertinent documents through Institutional Documentation Services (IDOC).
• Paying Fees: There is a $25 fee for the initial application. Additional reports cost $16 each, so be very sure of your college list. You can pay this fee using a credit or debit card, or you may be eligible for a fee waiver in certain instances.
• Adding Colleges: You may add colleges to your list at any time, but be aware that you may be charged $16 for each additional request.
Common CSS Profile Errors
You want your application to be accurate the first time through to avoid delays in processing and submitting your answers to your intended colleges. It should be similar to the information provided on your FAFSA, and avoid these other filing errors:
• Check the academic year: You will see applications for 2020/21 and 2021/22 on the website. Make sure you start with the correct year’s application.
• Name and Social Security Number: A wrong SSN could lead to big delays. Also be sure the name you use on your application is the same as the one that is associated with that number.
• Watch those birthdates: It can be easy to overlook something as simple as a birthdate for the student, parent or siblings. Always check for accuracy.
• Know who the question is about: Some questions are about the student, and some are about the parent. Make sure you know who the question refers to, so you can provide the correct answer.
• Who is a parent: A parent is not necessarily the person you live with. CSS Profile applicants are expected to report their biological parents, current stepparents, current parental partners, and current legal guardians. A non-custodial parent may also be expected to provide information.
• Know your college: Only submit undergraduate colleges on the CSS Profile, not a law, business or medical graduate school.
• Omitting special circumstances. In a year of COVID and natural disasters, it is especially important to use this section to update potential colleges about your current financial situation so they won’t have to rely solely on last year’s numbers.
For the latest CSS Profile and financial aid information, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails. Tune in for my weekly Twitter chat at #CollegeCash every Thursday at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern. The CFAA Scholarship Program helps you locate, organize and apply to personalized scholarship opportunities.