What Is A CSS Financial Profile?

"CSS Financial Profile" text against water drops design background.While applying for financial aid or filling out college applications, you may have heard of the CSS Financial Profile (or CSS Profile). It is an online application much like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). However, not every freshman will have to complete the CSS Profile, so what exactly is it?

What is it?

The CSS Financial Profile is the College Scholarship Service Profile. Even though it is similar to the FASFA, it is in fact different. Instead of being just for any type of financial aid, the CSS Profile is only for private, non-federal aid. It was created by the College Board and is used by about 300 colleges, universities, and scholarship programs. The profile allows colleges and programs to have a more in-depth view of you and your family’s finances and expenses.

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What Do You Need To Apply?

The application process of the CSS Profile is extremely similar to the FASFA, but it does ask for a bit more than is required for the federal application. It’s estimated that the forms will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to complete. In addition to the information the FASFA requests, the CSS Financial Profile will also ask about your savings, retirement accounts, home value, and information if your family owns a small business. You’ll also be able to claim more expenses, including how much money your family has spent on private schools and your area’s cost of living.

The application, however, is not free. Creating the first one and sending it to only one school or scholarship costs $25 for the 2017 to 2018 scholastic year. Every additional request is $16. If you’re from a low income household, you may qualify for a waived fee. Also keep in mind that the fee amount changes every year.

The CSS Profile becomes available to students on October 1st, but the due date depends on your college choice and whether you’re choosing early or regular decision.

Do You Need To Fill it Out?

Not all students applying to colleges will need to complete the CSS Profile. For the most part, only private schools accept the application and some, like Princeton, choose to use their own system instead. You can see all the colleges, universities, and scholarship programs that accept the CSS Profile here. Some schools, like Yale or Harvard for example, require you to complete the Profile during the application process.

If your school isn’t on the list above, you do not have to fill out the CSS Financial Profile. Most public schools will not accept the application, but it’s important to check.

If any of the schools you’re considering or applying to take or require the CSS Profile, it’s essential that you complete it. Even if you don’t think you will receive any financial aid, you may be surprised, especially since the CSS Profile takes more expenses into account. After you complete the application once, you will be able to send the completed CSS Profile to any school you’re applying to.

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