CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE

The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE is a financial aid application form 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 CSS/Financial Aid 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-government financial aid, such as institutional scholarship, grant, student employment and loan programs. The CSS PROFILE also collects more detailed information about a family’s financial circumstances and contains about 50% more questions than the FAFSA

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE Application Costs

Unlike the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which is free to file, the CSS/Financial Aid 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.

Application Deadlines

The CSS/Financial Aid 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 to check with each school or program for their submission deadlines. Make sure to complete the CSS PROFILE online at least two weeks before each deadline.

How to File

  1. Create a College Board Account

    In order to file the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, the student will need to register at the College Board web site before logging in to the CSS PROFILE web site with his or her College Board account.

  2. Gather Documentation Before Starting the Application

    Just like when completing the FAFSA, it's beneficial to have financial records on hand before starting the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. Gather all tax and financial records that are available. Students may also want to complete the pre-application worksheet available at the College Board web site.

  3. Complete the Online Application

    Start the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form by visiting the PROFILE application site. After logging in, the student will see a welcome screen:

    CSS Finanical Aid PROFILE Home

    Select "Register for PROFILE" to begin the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE application. Note that the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE application questions may be customized by the schools and/or scholarship programs to which the student is applying. After completing the CSS PROFILE, the student will need to enter payment information before the CSS PROFILE can be processed.

For more information on the application process, download the Applying for CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE instructions from the College Board.

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 an Institutional Methodology (IM).

Key differences between methodologies are summarized in this table:

Financial Aid Formula Components FM (FAFSA) IM (CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE)
Net Worth of Family Home Ignored Capped, usually at 2-3 times income
Simplified Needs Test Yes No
Net Worth of Small Family Businesses Ignored Counted
Number of Years of Income One Three
Minimum Student Contribution or
Summer Work Expectation
No Yes
Paper Losses (Depreciation, capital losses, business/farm losses, NOL carry-forwards) Counted Ignored
Non-Custodial Parent Income/Assets Ignored Counted
Number of Children in College Equal split of parent contribution Smaller reduction in parent contribution
Assets Owned by a Sibling Ignored Counted, if sibling is under age 19 and not yet in college
Allowance for College Savings None Subtracted from assets
Allowance for Emergency Reserve None Subtracted from assets
Start of Application Season January 1 October 1
Adjustment for Regional Cost of Living Differences No Yes
Assessment of Student Assets 20% 25%

The adjustments to the parent contribution based on the number of children in college at the same time are summarized in the next table. The calculated parent contribution is multiplied by the percentages listed in this table.

Number in College FM (FAFSA) IM (CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE)
1 100% 100%
2 50% 60%
3 33% 45%
4 25% 35%

The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE also offers families the opportunity to provide a narrative to describe any extenuating circumstances that may impact their ability to contribute to college expenses. The FAFSA suggests families seek a professional judgment review from their college’s financial aid administrator.

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.