There are two different forms that are used in applying for financial aid: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile. True to its name, the FAFSA is used in determining your eligibility for federal grants and loans. The CSS Profile is not a federal application, and therefore cannot be used to apply for federal aid. The Profile is used for individual institutions in determining a student’s need. The Profile is a product of the College Board. If you signed up for the PSAT, SAT, or AP online, you can use the same login.

The FAFSA and Profile forms use different criteria in order to calculate aid. The FAFSA uses information about your family’s assets and tax information for a snapshot. The Profile, however, looks more to the future. You will still need to submit income verification and tax documents. It evaluates your family’s current and future expenses that aren’t always captured by tax documents. You will also answer questions about your home, retirement savings, and expected income. You will also need expected income figures for the next year.

How do I file the CSS Profile?

As the CSS Profile is accepted by over 400 colleges, it stands to reason that some colleges may want extra information before awarding aid. Much like supplemental essays on the Common Application, this section allows colleges to ask questions that aren’t covered by the standard part of the application. About a quarter of all schools that require the Profile also require students to submit tax and income information through the IDOC, the Institutional Documentation Service. They typically require you to scan and submit your federal tax return, including W2 and 1099 records.

The Profile for the next school year is available beginning on October 1st. If you plan on applying for Early Action or Early Decision, make sure you fill it out as soon as possible in order to get the most aid from your institutions of choice. Try to gather all the information that you’ll need to fill out the Profile as early as possible. The process takes about 2 hours to complete without the help of an applications counselor. You will need to pay a $25 fee to complete the application itself, and $16 for each school to which you are applying. TIP: Submit the Profile to any Early Decision schools first, then submitting for other schools only if you didn’t get satisfactory aid.

It’s important to follow every avenue when pursuing financial aid. We are happy to handle the CSS Profile and FAFSA. Our clients have received thousands more in aid than if they had filled out both forms themselves.

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