Everything you need to know to complete the CSS profile
The CSS profile is a request for college financial aid required by 300 colleges, universities and scholarship organizations. Complete the …
The CSS profile is a request for college financial aid required by 300 colleges, universities and scholarship organizations. According to experts, completing the CSS Profile, short for College Scholarship Service Profile, can be tedious.
But recent changes to the CSS profile should make the process more accessible and affordable for low- and middle-income families.
“For some students, any type of form can be a challenge to complete,” says Samantha Veeder, associate dean of university enrollment and director of financial aid at the University of Rochester in New York. “But it’s absolutely necessary for colleges and universities to collect the data they need to allocate their limited financial aid grants and awards in a fair manner.”
What is the CSS profile?
The CSS Profile, administered and maintained by the College Board, opens the door to non-federal scholarships and other types of institutional support that can make a big difference when it comes to paying for college.
Aiming to paint a more complete picture of a family’s finances, the CSS Profile gives families the opportunity to describe any unique or extenuating circumstances affecting their ability to pay.
“The CSS profile is going to go deeper, so be prepared for that,” says Elaine Rubin, director of corporate communications at Edvisors, a higher education resource site. “Unfortunately, when it comes to families who do not wish to provide this information, this may be a requirement, especially if your student or child is attending a school that requires the CSS profile.”
The schools that require the demand are mostly private colleges or other institutions with large endowments, experts say.
[Read: 10 Most, Least Expensive Private Colleges.]
For some families, completing the CSS profile will result in institutional scholarships and a lower net price, which refers to what the student is actually paying to attend a particular college. But for others, filing the request may not have an impact. Experts suggest families use a net price calculator – a tool that takes into account potential financial aid to determine a rough estimate of the total cost of attendance.
“I would encourage families to complete the application as in most cases it will disqualify them for need-based financial assistance if they do not complete the CSS Profile Application,” Brian Lee-Sang, Assistant Vice-President, finance helps the American University, wrote in an email.
“I have seen many families who thought they would not qualify, receive significant help. There is no downside to applying other than the time spent and the low price CSS charges some families. The needs-based financial aid available at most private universities is significantly higher than what they could qualify for through the FAFSA. It is always worth it.
CSS Profile Schools
Only some colleges and universities require that the CSS profile be considered for need-based financial aid. While many are private institutions, some are public schools.
Here are some examples of schools that accept or require the CSS profile for the 2022-2023 school year:
– Alabama A&M University
– Brandeis University (MA)
– Duke University (NC)
– Emory University (GA)
– Grinnell College (IA)
– Oregon State University
– Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ)
– Tulane University (LA)
– University of Southern California
– University of Villanova (AP)
– Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA)
Check out the full list of schools using the CSS profile on the College Board website.
How to complete the CSS profile
Students applying to a college requiring the CSS profile or families in need of financial assistance who are interested in schools using the form should follow the steps below.
Create a College Board account
Students who have taken the SAT may already have a College Board account, which can be used to complete the CSS profile. Log in or create a profile by going to https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/.
Gather the necessary documentation
The CSS profile requires tax documents from the same year as the Free Federal Financial Aid Application, or FAFSA, which is required for students interested in receiving Federal Financial Aid. Students who have already completed the FAFSA can use much of the same documentation for the CSS profile.
On both forms, families will report their income two years before the year a student plans to attend college. A family filling out the form for the 2022-2023 academic year, for example, will use the 2020 income tax return.
Since the CSS Profile is a very detailed form, families should expect to need additional documents. These will include their most recent tax returns; W-2 forms and other income records for the current year; records of untaxed income and benefits; assets; and bank statements, according to the College Board.
Students have the option of specifying which colleges they wish to receive their CSS profile. There is no limit to the number of schools a student can apply to, even under a fee waiver, according to Gail Holt, dean of financial aid at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Complete the application
“In a lot of ways it’s going to start to look pretty much” like the FAFSA, says Scott Wallace-Juedes, director of undergraduate financial aid at Yale College, a constituent school of Yale University in Connecticut . “Tell us about your family, where you live, how old are your parents, do you have any other siblings in college. Then it will ask for tax data.
For the CSS 2022-2023 profile, previously introduced features such as skip logic, which reduces questions for low-income families, have been updated to make the form easier to complete. Other new improvements include fewer school-specific questions. A shorter version of the form is under development and is expected to launch in fall 2022.
Families will also have the opportunity to detail any special circumstances. Experts say it’s a good place for families to outline anything that isn’t showing on their tax forms or any other issue, like the expense of child care for a grandparent abroad or other financial difficulties.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many families may find that their taxes from two years ago do not adequately reflect their current financial situation. In addition to providing details on a particular circumstance, families should keep in mind that they can also request more help by contacting a college financial aid office.
Submit the request
Families must pay a fee or receive a waiver before the CSS profile is sent to colleges.
There may be more instructions after submitting the CSS profile. Students should refer to the College Board dashboard to view necessary actions and to view a payment receipt. Once the form is submitted, students can still add colleges they want their profile sent to, although they are charged for each additional school.
If a student notices an error after submission, ad hoc corrections can now be made through the “Correct your CSS Profile” section on their dashboard.
The CSS profile vs the FAFSA
The CSS Profile is different from FAFSA, the free form from the US Department of Education that determines a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid. The CSS Profile allows institutions to ask non-FAFSA financial questions and customize the questions. It is more detailed, so it may take longer to complete, but it may also result in additional financial assistance.
[See: 10 Common Mistakes Made on the FAFSA.]
“It helps us understand where our families are coming from so we can better support them through our needs programs,” says Wallace-Juedes. “Many of our students are receiving more aid than if we had just used the federal form.”
Some examples of questions a family may encounter on the CSS Profile but will not find on the FAFSA include those regarding assets specific to a family’s primary residence and information about additional medical or educational expenses.
The CSS profile is also likely to be very different, and perhaps much broader, for students whose parents are divorced, separated, or never married. Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS Profile requires financial information from both parents and their spouses.
“A student whose parents are divorced and who lives with the low-income parent may be offered more needs-based assistance at a FAFSA-only school because that school does not receive the non-custodial parent information provided by the CSS profile, ”says Becky Claster, independent education consultant and founder of Claster Educational Services in Washington, DC“ On the flip side, a student from a family with high medical or childcare expenses might benefit from sharing. of this additional information via the CSS profile, as it is not reported on the FAFSA.
CSS Profile Fee Waiver
The CSS profile requires families to pay a fee – $ 25 for initial requests and $ 16 for additional reports. But recent changes by the College Board to the income guidelines have doubled the number of students eligible for fee waivers, according to Veeder.
Families and non-custodial parents with adjusted gross income of less than $ 100,000 can complete the CSS profile for free.
“I’ve found that sometimes middle-income families have a harder time making college affordable for them based on their circumstances because they have fewer resources than low-income families,” said Veeder.
Exemptions are also available for low-income undergraduates who have received an SAT fee waiver or if the students are orphans or court wards under the age of 24. These requirements apply only to domestic undergraduate students. International students usually have access to fee payment codes offered by nonprofits and many colleges and universities, says Holt.
[Read: How to Pay for College Using These Overlooked Strategies.]
What is the CSS profile deadline?
Because each institution has a different CSS profile, the deadlines also vary. Experts say CSS profile deadlines often match admission deadlines, but students should check with their college to make sure they submit the form on time.
Families can begin filling out the CSS Profile when it opens on October 1 of each year, the same day the FAFSA opens.
Are you trying to finance your studies? Get tips and more at the US News Paying for College center.
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Everything you need to know to complete the CSS profile originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 10/1/21: This article has been updated with new information.