About the CSS Profile
It’s that time of the year when you need to submit the CSS Profile… Here is some information that you will find useful regarding the financial aid process and this application.
The College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile is an application process designed to assess the eligibility of students in the United States for financial aid at post-secondary institutions.. Students and their families complete the CSS Profile documents and submit them, usually online, in conjunction with another similar application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). ‘Profile’ schools, as they are colloquially known, are typically very selective, and include, but are not limited to, Ivy League institutions and other prestigious colleges.
There are several differences between the CSS Profile and the FAFSA:
- The FAFSA is a free application while the CSS has a submission and completion fee attached to it. However, the fee may automatically be waived if reported income is below a certain amount.
- The FAFSA requires information about each family’s assets and income while the CSS requires information for both parents regardless of whether or not both live with the student applying for aid. The CSS Profile also takes into account the family’s home equity while the FAFSA only considers actual income.
- The CSS Profile can be used for the early application and early decision process. Students and their families are required to submit the relevant personal and financial information based on the previous year’s tax forms.
- The FAFSA application requires only one submission of tax information with the application while the CSS Profile will likely require submission of new tax information after the initial application has been processed.
- The FAFSA allows ten schools to be submitted with the initial application. Any additional schools can be entered after the submission
- The CSS Profile has no limit on how many schools a student submits an application for.
- The CSS Profile can be submitted as early as November for early admissions but can also be submitted in January for regular admissions.
These two forms help institutions calculate each student’s expected family contribution, or EFC. The EFC is the minimum amount the student is expected to contribute towards their tuition each year, and is represented in a dollar amount. It is the result of the two application forms, and after it has been calculated, is sent to those aid departments at the college where the student is enrolled.
There are several factors involved in determining the EFC of each student, including assets and incomes of family members and students, family size, number of dependent children, among others. The goal of the EFC is to make certain that aid is given to those students who need it most and are most eligible for it.
Once EFC has been calculated, the student and their family will receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR, which will also be sent along to the universities and colleges in question for consideration. The FAFSA and CSS Profile applications must be completed in a timely fashion well within the deadline to allow time for the information to be processed and for schools to determine the amount of aid needed to supplement a family’s EFC.
For example: if a student’s EFC is $15 000 USD, and the tuition of a given school is $35 000 USD, then the school will have to be able to provide the difference, $20 000 USD, to the student. Without the SAR, schools are unable to determine this.
The funding provided to a student to supplement their EFC for the cost of tuition may come in a variety of forms. Scholarships and grants are paid to the student without the need for reimbursement. Loans may also make up part of the funding a student receives. Unlike scholarships and grants, loans need to be reimbursed but the payback schedule begins after the student graduates. Finally, many schools offer work-study programs for students requiring financial aid, so that part of a student’s funding may come in the form of an income from the school itself in exchange for work or research.
The CSS Profile and the FAFSA are crucial parts of the process of determining the appropriate amount of funding for each student, and delivering that aid to allow students to receive an affordable post-secondary education.