TThe CSS Profile is an additional student support application beyond the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) required in hundreds of private and public schools to be considered for institutional scholarships and grants. If you complete the CSS profile, you still need to complete the FAFSA if you want state or federal grants, scholarships, and loans.
What is the CSS profile?
the CSS Profile is an online financial aid application available from the College Board, the organization that developed the SAT test. The form collects additional financial information for higher education institutions outside of what the FAFSA covers to help estimate a family’s ability to pay for college. For example, you will need to provide information on primary residence equity, annual medical bills, and private school tuition fees for the student and siblings.
About 400 colleges, universities, and scholarship programs use the CSS profile. The board of directors has made a list of participating establishments.
How the CSS profile works
Students create an ID on the College Board website. Then they will fill in information about their financial situation. Anyone filing income should have their W2s, tax returns, and asset information handy. Asset information includes, but is not limited to, bank account balances, investment account balances, small business value, and home equity.
As with the FAFSA, the CSS Profile uses these financial data points to calculate your expected family contribution. Colleges use the expected family contribution to prepare your financial aid package.
Eligibility for financial aid with the CSS profile
Each college or university that uses the CSS profile to determine financial aid sets its own requirements for who is eligible for financial aid and how much the student will be offered. For example, a school may calculate financial aid taking into account all birth parents, whether or not they are custodial parents. Another can’t. Other schools may also appear in other factors such as cost of living differently.
CSS vs FAFSA profile
There are several key differences between the FAFSA profile and the CSS profile. The CSS profile:
- Collects more data than FAFSA. Small business values and home equity are counted on the CSS profile; they are not reported on the FAFSA.
- Takes into account special circumstances. If your family has been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, you will be able to include this information on your CSS profile. If the school you attend only uses the FAFSA, you can still report special circumstances through a special circumstances form.
- Authorize only one school per application. Each profile requested is for a school and has its own attached costs; the FAFSA is free and you can list up to 10 schools on your initial application.
- May include school specific questions. While the FAFSA asks for the same information for all schools, each CSS profile school may have its own unique set of questions.
The CSS Profile provides access to an important source of funding that may not be available only through the FAFSA. The CSS Profile takes a closer look at family finances than FAFSA to allow families to share their full story with financial aid offices.
To note: All of the information you provide on the FAFSA should match the information you provide on the CSS Profile. For example, the declared bank account information should be the same. Income tax returns may be different because the FAFSA uses tax returns one year earlier than the CSS profile.
Who needs to complete a CSS profile
Any undergraduate or transfer student applying to a school that applies for the CSS profile and wishes to receive financial aid will need to complete a profile. Graduating, Professional, and returning students should check with the financial aid office to see if a CSS profile application is required.
CSS profile deadlines
CSS profile deadlines may vary from school to school. However, the opening date is the same for everyone: usually it becomes available on October 1 of each year. In 2020, the form opened on September 15th, so it’s a good idea to check the CSS Profile website for the opening date in early September.
Estimate your financial aid scholarship from CSS profile
The College Board offers a EFC Calculator for American and Canadian students. However, this is not always the best way to estimate your reward. You can use net cost calculators on the school’s websites, but you can also contact the school’s financial aid office to see what differences there may be this year compared to last year in the amount of aid given and the way it is distributed. It is always a good idea to call financial aid offices, as you may be able to inquire about other scholarship opportunities.
CSS profile costs
The CSS profile is $ 25 for the first school and $ 16 for each additional school. If a student needs the results sent to five schools, the total cost is $ 89. Transferring students are treated like other incoming students and may be required to submit a CSS profile and pay the same fees.
Graduate students and professionals from participating schools may also be required to complete a form. The fees are the same.
Students returning to the same college do not necessarily have to complete the CSS profile or pay the fees more than once.
“Overall, 61% of CSS Profile institutions require a returning student body to complete the application,” said Amanda Ingersoll, spokesperson for the College Board. “However, this requirement may vary by population, as some institutions will require national or international students to complete as a returning student.”
For example, low-income students may be exempt from this requirement.
14 steps to complete the CSS profile
Fourteen steps can make it seem like filing your CSS profile is going to be an overwhelming experience. But if you follow this guide, you should significantly reduce your chances of errors or omissions:
- Gather a list of the schools you are considering. Call each college’s financial aid office to see if they need a CSS profile and if there are other scholarship forms you will need to complete to maximize financial aid.
- Prepare your financial information. This includes W2 forms or other taxed and untaxed income records, bank statements, income tax returns, and mortgage information.
- Hold a family reunion about special financial circumstances. For example, you can include information about private school tuition fees, an immediate family member having excessive medical care costs, or reduced income due to Covid-19.
- Create an account to fill out CSS profiles. You may already have an account if you have taken the SAT.
- Select the correct school year. If you are starting college next fall, select the right year for it.
- Click on “start a new profile” once logged in. You will complete a profile for the first school you select.
- Fill in the student section first. It determines the type of questions that will be asked of parents and whether the pupil is considered to be completely independent. The independent student guidelines for FAFSA are not necessarily those discussed on CSS profiles. Even at CSS Profile schools, independent student qualifications for federal and state aid meet FAFSA guidelines.
- Fill in anything that doesn’t have a check mark next to it. Everything else means that your request is incomplete.
- Record the information as you go. The app requires more information than the FAFSA, so you can take breaks and not lose information.
- Add all the requested information. For example, a school may request financial information from non-custodial parents. In this case, you will need to provide an email address and a non-custodial parent will receive a request to create their own CSS profile form.
- Pay for each CSS profile with a credit or debit card. You can enter a fee payment code if you have a waiver or school code. Save a copy of each application for reference.
- Add a college or program from the CSS Profile Dashboard. Answer all new questions for each additional school or program.
- Check your dashboard regularly. You may receive follow-up requests from the school, including additional documents. The dashboard also indicates the priority deadlines for financial aid.
- Ask for help when needed. You can click the “Contact Us” button at any time when filling out profiles if you have any questions.
How to get a CSS Profile Fee Waiver
Before you apply, the College Board will determine if you are eligible for a waiver. There are a number of requirements that any undergraduate student can meet to qualify:
- You have already received an SAT fee waiver
- Your family’s adjusted gross income is $ 100,000 or less
- You are an orphan or court ward under the age of 24
If you are applying to any of the approximately 400 colleges that require the CSS profile to receive college financial aid, complete it. If you can’t afford it, check out any fee waivers from the College Board or the school’s financial aid office. Be prepared with all of your financial documents and discuss your family’s financial situation.
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