When thinking of a college financial aid form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA) often comes to mind. The U.S. Department of Education form is mandatory at all schools to be considered for government supported financial aid. A lesser known, but equally important ‘form’ is required at many schools, the College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile).
The CSS Profile is a supplemental financial aid form required by many private colleges to determine eligibility for nongovernment financial aid. It is distributed by the College Board and is used by almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs to determine a family’s true ability to pay for college.
The CSS Profile is an online form similar to the FAFSA. A family enters their financial information to determine a family’s true ability to pay for their child’s higher education. The CSS Profile is available during the student’s senior year and can be submitted to schools as early as October 1st. Each school and scholarship program has a different deadline throughout the year, therefore it is important to know to which schools your child might be applying. It is also important to know the proper code of the school or program in which they are applying.
The main difference between the two forms is cost. The FAFSA is a free government form, while the CSS Profile is a fee based application, costing $25 for the first school and $16 per additional submission. Another difference are deadlines. The CSS Profile is due in the fall of the student’s senior year of high school, whereas the FAFSA is released each year on January 1st and has due dates in February and March.
Do not become discouraged about receiving financial aid from a school if you required to complete the CSS Profile. Many times, completing the form can help. The CSS Profile provides a school with a more accurate picture of a family’s ability to pay for school. Many of the schools that require the CSS Profile are simply looking to properly distribute from a large endowment.
Students from low-income families with limited assets are eligible to receive fee waivers. If you think you may qualify, complete the CSS Profile as early as possible (there are a limited number of fee waivers available). In addition, the CSS Profile is not required by all schools. Check with the school you are interested in to see if it is required. If the school does require this form, a pre-application worksheet can help save time by entering the form online. Lastly, be sure to provide proper documentation for your answers.