While the focus of financial aid applications is often the FAFSA, it’s important to understand that some schools require students complete the CSS Profile to receive non-federal financial aid. In fact, 400+ colleges and scholarship programs use the CSS Profile. Your student should confirm whether or not they need to file the CSS Profile and FAFSA based on their potential school’s websites. Be aware that some also require their own financial aid applications, too.
What is the CSS Profile?
The CSS Profile is administered by our old friends at The College Board (yes, the same people from the SAT exam and AP classes!). The CSS Profile is a little more in-depth than the FAFSA because it is designed to help colleges see a truer picture of your family’s financial need. It may even request financial information on a non-custodial parent. It is meant to help schools better understand what your finances look like.
How do I complete the CSS Profile?
To complete the CSS Profile, you’ll need to use your College Board username and password. If you have an account for the SAT or to view your AP scores, use that. If not, you can sign up for a new account. As you complete the CSS Profile, the system automatically builds an application tailored to your family’s specific situation. The application is very responsive and they provide plenty of support online to help you through the entire application!
Unlike the FAFSA, there is a fee associated with submitting the CSS Profile. We always encourage students to be incredibly sure they want to apply to the schools that require the profile. Fees can add up quickly during application season! If you cannot afford the fee, there is a hardship waiver you can apply for!
Once you have submitted your application, keep an eye on your dashboard in case a college wants you to submit additional information.
Anything else I should know about completing the CSS Profile?
Like all applications, there’s a few common mistakes to avoid when completing the CSS Profile. They include:
- Consistency with the FAFSA: Some colleges may require both the FAFSA and the Profile to award federal, state and institutional aid. Information must be consistent between these two applications, or it will raise a red flag. As most applications are completed at separate times, double-check to look for any inconsistencies. Usually, it’s an accident but do your best to avoid any discrepancies.
- Keep your income figures straight: The FAFSA makes it pretty easy to report income from your federal income tax returns using the Federal Tax Information, but the Profile may also request updates on your 2022 financial situation and can ask for projections about 2023. If your financial situation has changed dramatically, this could be an advantage for you, but be sure to provide a concise explanation in the “Explanations/Special Circumstances” section.
- Watch the supplemental questions: Make sure you answer any additional questions required by each college, but do that in the “Supplemental Questions” section, so only that college will see your answers.
Completing the CSS Profile is about being prepared and reviewing your financial information carefully. It’s simply another option to help your family find money to pay for college! Read more tips about completing the CSS Profile here.
Want more help with college financial aid?
CFAA helps with the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Schedule a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college.