Depending on which colleges your high school senior is applying to for the 2020-21 academic year, you might be required to complete the CSS Profile to help determine your financial aid eligibility. Like the FAFSA, it will come online October 1, 2019, and should be completed as soon as possible. Although it does require more detailed financial information, it allows your family to present an in-depth picture of your present financial situation.
The CSS Profile is an online application from The College Board which helps to determine your eligibility for nonfederal student financial aid. It is used by nearly 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs to award more than $9 billion in grants, some of which might not be available through the FAFSA alone. You do not have to complete the Profile in one sitting, but remember to finish and submit the application in time to meet your schools’ financial aid deadlines. Other things you need to know about the CSS Profile:
• User Account: If you have a College Board account, sign in using the same credentials you created for the SAT, AP tests, and other purposes. Using the same account will save you time and help apply any fee waivers received to your CSS Profile application.
• Documents: You will probably have most of your documents already available if you are also completing the FAFSA. For 2020-21, the FAFSA will rely solely on financial information from your 2018 federal income tax returns, but the CSS Profile may ask you to provide information about your financial status in 2019 and anticipated income for 2020 as well. This can be crucial if your family has experienced a dramatic change such as divorce, death, job loss, or natural disaster. You may be asked to submit information securely online through the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC), which the College Board then automatically forwards to all of your IDOC schools automatically.
• Submission: The CSS Profile uses a dashboard, which offers an at-a-glance snapshot of your application status, payment information and important college details, such as deadlines and messages. It is updated in real time as you progress through the application. The dashboard is also mobile-enabled, and can be viewed on a smart device, such as a smartphone or tablet. You can add a college or program from the dashboard, although a few new questions may be required if the selected school requires additional information. Be sure to return to your dashboard frequently to look for messages from your colleges, including requests for additional documents.
• Non-Custodial Parents: One of the biggest differences from the FAFSA is that the CSS Profile may also require financial information from a non-custodial parent. You will be prompted to share your parent’s email address after you have selected your colleges. If you are not in contact with the non-custodial parent, a CSS Profile Waiver Request is available to provide to colleges.
• Certification: Prior to submitting your CSS Profile to the schools you have chosen, review your responses by choosing the application review tab. If any section is incomplete, you will be prompted to complete it during this final review process. You must certify that your application is correct by clicking the check box in the application certification, and then clicking on the “save and continue” box.
• Fees: In contrast to the free FAFSA, you may be required to pay a fee for your CSS Profile submission. The fee for the initial application and one college or program report is $25. Additional reports are $16. You can use a credit or debit card to pay through the College Board’s secure website. Your college may provide you with a Fee Payment Code, and Fee waivers may be available for low-income students.
You may still be required to file the FAFSA if your student wants to participate in the Federal Work-Study Program, hopes to qualify for federal student aid, or will need to borrow money through Federal Student Loans. Be sure to read each college’s website carefully to determine if they require completion of the CSS PROFILE, or have a supplemental financial aid form requirement.