The fall of the senior high school year can be complicated enough with applying to college, completing the FAFSA, and searching for college scholarships, but then you learn you also need to complete the CSS Profile in order to qualify for financial aid at your specific college.
CSS is the College Scholarship Service. Their Profile financial aid application is used by nearly 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs to award more than $9 billion in grants. Some colleges require the Profile in addition to the FAFSA or in place of the FAFSA, but you still need to submit a FAFSA to qualify for federal student aid or federal student loans. Some schools may also have other financial aid requirements, so check each individual college’s financial aid page to make sure you meet all requirements.
Similar to the FAFSA, the CSS Profile goes live October 1. It requires a more comprehensive description of the student’s and the parents’ financial situation, but this might be helpful if you are trying to explain a specific financial circumstance. In cases of divorce or separation, colleges may require the CSS Profile from both of the student’s biological or adoptive parents. There is a fee to submit the CSS Profile to each college, although it may be waived in cases of financial hardship or natural disaster, such as Hurricane Florence. Here are the key completion steps you need to follow for the CSS Profile.
1. Timeframes: Complete your CSS Profile application at cssprofile.org starting October 1. Submit it about two weeks before the earliest priority filing date listed by your colleges to leave time to address any errors or omissions.
2. Records: You need financial documents for the student and the parents. Gather the most recently completed tax returns, W-2 forms and other records of current year income, records of untaxed income and benefits, assets and bank statements. The CSS Profile asks you to provide family income information from two years prior to the application year (i.e. 2018 for the 2020-2021 school year), but you should also expect to answer a few questions about your parents’ income for this year, 2019, and their anticipated income for next year, 2020.
3. Account:Use the College Board account you created to register for the SAT, or view SAT and AP scores, to log into the Profile. Once you are logged in, click the “Begin New Profile” button to start.
4. Navigation: You can move between different sections of the application by using the left-side navigation bar. After completing each screen, use the “save and continue” button to proceed to the next section. Checkmarks will appear as you complete each section. This is helpful if you leave the application and login again later, so you will remember what parts have already been finished. Fields that require an answer are noted with an asterisk.
5. Dependency: The student dependency status is a very important section. Answers you provide to questions in this section will determine your dependency status, and will also determine the type of questions asked in subsequent sections.
6. Get Help: Help is provided as you answer questions within the application. Additional help is available by chat, phone, or email by clicking “Contact Us.”
7. Completion: Check your application twice to make sure there are no obvious errors. You must complete the application certification to show that you believe the information provided to be true and accurate. The date and time you submit your completed application will be recorded as of Eastern Time and your reports will be sent to the colleges you selected. After submission, you can continue to add colleges or programs to receive your application. You might want to print a copy of your application for future reference.
8. Payment: The fee for the initial application is $25. Additional reports are $16. Payment may be made via credit or debit card. Reports are sent to colleges immediately upon payment.
Review your dashboard regularly to determine if any college requires additional steps, such as submitting supplemental documents.