CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE
The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form is a financial aid application produced by the College Board's College Scholarship Service.
Many schools and scholarship programs use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE as a supplement to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The PROFILE is used primarily by more than 250 of the most selective colleges and universities as well as about 150 private scholarship programs for determining eligibility for non-federal and non-state financial aid, such as institutional scholarship, grant, student employment and loan programs. The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE also collects more detailed information about a family’s financial circumstances and contains nearly 50% more questions than the FAFSA
CSS PROFILE Application Costs
Unlike the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which is free to file, the CSS PROFILE requires a fee of $25 for the first school (one-time registration fee of $9 fee plus $16 to send the processing results to one college, university or scholarship program), and $16 for each additional school or scholarship program requiring the form. However, low-income students will automatically be considered for a fee waiver to allow the student to apply to a combination of up to eight colleges or universities or scholarship programs.
The CSS PROFILE can be submitted as early as October 1 each year. Schools and scholarship programs have individual deadlines which span throughout the year, so it's important that you check with your school or program for their submission deadlines. Make sure to complete your application online at least two weeks before each deadline.
How to File
Create a CollegeBoard Account
Just like when completing the FAFSA, it's beneficial to have financial records on hand when you begin to complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. Before you start the PROFILE process, gather all tax and financial records that you have available. You may also want to complete the pre-application worksheet available at the College Board website
Complete the Online Application
Start your application by visiting the PROFILE application site. When you've logged in, you'll see a welcome screen:
Click "Register for PROFILE" to begin your application. Note that the PROFILE application questions may be customized by the schools and/or scholarship programs to which you are applying. Once you're done registering for and completing the PROFILE, you will need to enter your payment information before the PROFILE can be processed.
For more information on the application process, download the Applying for CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE instructions.
CSS / Financial Aid PROFILE vs. the FAFSA
Both financial aid applications use different needs analysis formulas. The FAFSA uses what is called the Federal Methodology (FM) for determining financial need, while the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE uses the Institutional Methodology (IM).
Key differences between methodologies include:
- The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE considers 3 years of income data. The FAFSA only considers one year.
- The CSS PROFILE takes into consideration home equity - the value of a house less any mortgages owed on the family’s home. The FAFSA does not consider home equity.
- CSS assumes a minimum level of contribution from the student. The FAFSA assumes that students may not be able to contribute anything.
- The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE offers families the opportunity to provide a narrative to describe any extenuating circumstances that may impact their ability to contribute to college expenses.
- The PROFILE does not have a simplified needs test.
- The PROFILE considers assets in the names of siblings under age 19 who are not enrolled in college.
- The PROFILE ignores “paper losses”, such as depreciation, net operating loss carry-forwards, business/farm losses and capital losses.
- The PROFILE considers the finances of the non-custodial parent when the student’s parents are divorced or separated, not just the custodial parent as the FAFSA does.
- THE PROFILE has a smaller reduction in the parent contribution when more than one child is enrolled in college at the same time.
- The PROFLE has adjustments for regional differences in the cost of living.
Why would a school choose the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE instead of just using the data from the FAFSA? Schools using the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE believe that by collecting more-detailed information from students and their families, they can make a more sensitive analysis of a family’s financial capacity to pay for college-related expenses.