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.
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
- Create a College Board Account
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.
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:
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
|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)|
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.