A Breakdown Of The CSS Financial Profile

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The CSS Financial Profile is administered by the College Board, the same organization that also administers the SAT. CSS stands for College Scholarship Service. This is an online application that about 400 colleges in the US use to determine eligibility for non-federal financial aid.

The CSS application is not an alternative to or a substitute for the FAFSA. Colleges that require students to submit the CSS also require the FAFSA. However, the two applications are used for different purpose—the FAFSA is used to calculate the amount of federal aid you are eligible for and the CSS will be used to calculate your eligibility for institutional aid.

Important Things to Know About the CSS Profile

You do not need to submit your CSS Profile to all colleges that you apply to. You will only need to submit it if you are applying to a college that requires this application.

The CSS application is not free to apply like the FAFSA. You have to pay $25 for the first application and then $16 for every additional school that you send it to. You may be eligible for a fee waiver if you can prove that you are a high-need student. Most schools will consider you high-need if your annual household income is less than $40,000.

Deadlines for submitting the CSS profile vary from one college to another. It is advisable to submit your application as early as possible in the cycle as awards are usually offered on a first-come-first-served basis.


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Information You Have to Provide on Your CSS Profile

The CSS Profile application collects much more information about you as compared to the FAFSA. This is because they are looking for a more complete picture of your family’s financial situation in order to put together a fair package for you.

In addition to some of the more basic information such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, residential address, email address and phone number, you will have to provide these details:

  • Your personal income, assets and expenses
  • Your parents’ income, assets and expenses
  • Number of family members and dependents
  • Previous year’s federal income tax return
  • Up to date bank statement
  • Latest statement for savings and investment accounts
  • Current and previous year’s earned income and untaxed income
  • Current and previous year’s records of SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Current mortgage details

It is impossible to remember all of these details off-hand so before you sit down to fill in your CSS Financial profile you must make sure you these documents handy as they contain all of the information you need:

  • Bank statements
  • Previous year’s federal tax returns
  • Records of untaxed income for the previous financial year
  • W-2 forms and any other records of income for the previous financial year
  • Mortgage information if applicable

There is also a section for information regarding special circumstances. This is where you would provide details that you were unable to fill in through other parts of the application. Special circumstances that you can include in this section include a parent getting laid off, recent separation or divorce, disability or death, or excessively high medical expenses.

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