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What is the CSS Profile? And How to Complete It

Last updated November 29, 2020

The College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile is an online application for non-federal student financial aid, such as institutional (and in some cases, state) scholarships and grants. Nearly 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs use the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA!

While completing the FAFSA sets you up to receive all the federal scholarships, grants, student loans, and work-study financial aid you are eligible for, the CSS Profile will help you receive any and all institutional aid you may be eligible for. Here’s everything you need to know about the CSS Profile!

Who needs to complete the CSS Profile?

If you’re applying to one of the ~400 colleges that use the CSS Profile, you will likely need to complete the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. Some of these colleges require the CSS profile, others recommend it. In either case, participating colleges use the CSS Profile to determine students’ level of non-federal financial need. 

This means, if you’re applying to any CSS Profile schools, in order to receive all the tuition-assistance, institutional scholarships and grants you’re eligible for, you’ll want to fill out the CSS Profile. 

Where do I start the CSS Profile, what info will I need, and when’s it due?

You can start the CSS Profile here. You and your parents (if you’re a dependent student) will need the following documents/info handy to complete the CSS Profile:

  • Federal tax returns
  • W-2 forms and other records of current year income
  • Records of untaxed income and benefits for the current and previous tax years
  • Current bank statements
  • Records of investments if applicable (savings, stocks, bonds, trusts, etc.)

The CSS Profile opens every year on October 1st (just like the FAFSA!) - CSS Profile deadlines are typically specific to the college you’re applying to, but the majority tend to fall between January 1st and March 1st every year. Like the FAFSA, you’ll need to renew your CSS Profile every year you attend college.

Unlike the FAFSA, which is always free, there is a $25 fee for completing the CSS Profile. The first report you send is included in the initial $25 fee. Each additional report you request will require a new $16 fee. However, fee waivers are available for low income students for up to eight (8) school or program reports.

How will the CSS Financial Aid Profile help me get money for college?

Once your CSS Profile is complete, you are able to send it to as many schools and scholarship programs as you want for a fee (much like the Common App). Each report you receive will highlight the amount of private aid you qualify for at each institution you request. The CSS Profile asks additional questions about your family finances to really help you get the maximum amount of aid possible.

It is important to note aid from the CSS Profile is offered in addition to the money offered from the completion of your FAFSA. Many schools offer additional scholarships and grants that are only available to those who complete the CSS Profile. 

If a school you are applying to requires a CSS Profile, you can expect there to be additional funding options available to you. This is particularly helpful to families who are not considered low-income, but still require help covering the costs of college. So absolutely complete the CSS Profile if a school you are applying to accepts it!

If you have questions about how to fill out the CSS Profile, or are stuck on any tricky questions, just text “Hello” to 33-55-77 to speak with one of our advisors and receive help right on your phone!

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