How Could This Impact Your College Financial Aid – Forbes Advisor
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The CSS Profile is an additional student support application beyond 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 are still required 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 College Board has compiled a list of participating establishments.
How the CSS profile works
Students create a connection 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 nearby. Asset information includes, but is not limited to, bank account balances, investment account balances, small business valuation, and home equity.
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 regarding who is eligible for financial aid and the amount offered to the student. 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 rank differently in other factors such as cost of living.
CSS Profile vs. FAFSA
There are several key differences between FAFSA and CSS Profile. The CSS profile:
- Collects more data than FAFSA. Small business and housing equity values are counted on the CSS profile; they are not reported on the FAFSA.
- Consider 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.
- Allow only one school per app. 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 requests the same information for all schools, each school in the CSS profile 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 fill out a CSS profile
Any first year 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 request is required.
CSS profile deadlines
CSS profile deadlines may vary from school to school. However, the opening date is the same for everyone: generally October 1 for the 2021-22 academic year. In 2020, the form opened on September 15, so it’s a good idea to check the CSS profile website for the opening date in early September.
Estimate of the financial aid grant from your 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 price. You can use net cost calculators on the schools’ websites, but you can also contact the school’s financial aid office to see what differences there may be for this year compared to last year in the amount of aid given and the how it is distributed. It is always a good idea to call financial aid offices as you might 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 need a returning student body to complete the application,” says College Board spokesperson Amanda Ingersoll. “However, this requirement may vary depending on the population, as some institutions will require national or international students to complete as a returning student.”
For example, low income students may see the requirement lifted.
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 taxable and untaxed income records in 2019 and 2020, bank statements, 2019 tax returns, and mortgage information.
- Hold a family reunion on special financial circumstances. For example, you might want to include information about private school tuition fees, an immediate family member with excessive medical 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 academic year. If you are starting college next fall, select 2021.
- Click on “start a new profile” once logged in. You will complete a profile for the first school you select.
- First complete the student section. 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. Anything else will mean that your application is incomplete.
- Record the information as you go. The app requires more information than the FAFSA, so you can take breaks and ensure you don’t lose information.
- Add any information requested. 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 any 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 deadlines for priority financial aid.
- Ask for help when needed. You can click on the “Contact Us” button at any time when filling out the 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
- Parental income is around $ 45,000 or less for a family of four
- You are an orphan or court ward under the age of 24
At the end of the line
If you are applying to any of the 400+ colleges that need the CSS profile to receive college financial aid, fill it out. 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.