css profile vs fafsa

When the FAFSA Isn’t Enough: What Is the CSS Profile?

You hear us talk about the FAFSA a lot on SCV. If you want to be considered for federal financial aid, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a must-do. But even though every college and university in the U.S. has access to the FAFSA, some schools require more information. That’s where the CSS Profile comes in.

Do you need to complete this other financial aid form? Find out what the CSS Profile is and who requires it.

The CSS Financial Aid Profile

The College Scholarship Service (CSS) Financial Aid Profile is distributed by the College Board (yes, the same institution that runs the SAT Test). It is designed to give private schools a more in-depth look at your finances in order to determine your eligibility for non-federal financial aid. Private scholarships and grants can have very different financial thresholds and requirements, and these schools use the profile information to match you up to their available aid types.

Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS asks more detailed questions, and will, on average, take longer to fill out. It asks for home equity information, medical expenses, non-qualified annuity details, and small family business values. Additionally, the CSS Profile will ask for a non-custodial parent’s financial details if the student’s parents are divorced. The form provides an email prompt to ask them to submit their information.

RELATED: 8 Financial Aid Myths Keeping Money From Your Pocket

Also unlike the FAFSA, submitting your CSS Profile to schools does have a fee. Currently, it is $25 to submit your information to the first college or university, and $16 for any additional submissions.

Who Requires the CSS Profile?

Importantly, not all colleges and universities require the CSS Profile — about 275 use the information to award non-federal aid at this time. But if schools like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale are on your application list, be sure to fill out your CSS Profile! You could be leaving private aid money on the table without it!

You can check and see if your colleges and universities use the CSS Profile on CollegeBoard.org.