What is the CSS PROFILE?

The CSS PROFILE is basically a non-governmental financial aid application administered by the College Board, the same people who bring you the SAT. Although used by some scholarship programs (the CSS stands for College Scholarship Service), it is more commonly used by almost 300 colleges to determine eligibility for institutional aid.

The PROFILE asks much more detailed questions than the FAFSA including in some cases the year of the car you drive. However, given that some of the schools most generous with their financial aid use the PROFILE, it can be worth answering the financially intrusive questions. After all, it is their money.

Unlike the FAFSA, the EFC calculated by PROFILE schools use their own institutional methodology (IM) as oppose to the Federal Methodology. This means that EFC calculated by the PROFILE will vary from school to school-there is no one PROFILE EFC.

There are several other important differences between the FASFA and CSS.

  • There is a fee for submitting the PROFILE and an additional cost for sending it to each school. The FASFA is free to submit. Student don’t request a fee waiver, the PROFILE actually calculates the waiver at the time the PROFILE is submitted.
  • The PROFILE asks for information on home equity although not all schools use that information as part of their institutional methodology.
  • Some PROFILE schools require information from the non-custodial parent whereas the FAFSA does not. You can find a list of PROFILE schools that require the non-custodial form at the College Board.
  • The PROFILE assumes a minimum student contribution that cannot be covered by outside financial aid sources.

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