Depending on which schools you apply to, you may have to complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile (or just the "Profile" for short) to be eligible for nonfederal financial aid like loans, grants, and scholarships.
This online application is separate from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are a couple big differences between the Profile and the FAFSA. First, not all schools require the Profile, but every school requires the FAFSA to determine your federal financial aid offer. If your school does require the Profile, then you must submit it and the FAFSA to be considered for nonfederal financial aid. Second, unlike the FAFSA, the Profile costs money to complete.
Not completing the Profile will not jeopardize your eligibility for federal financial aid. That's against the law. You can check the Profile's website for an updated list of schools that require it.
How Do I File The Profile?
You can fill out the Profile online via the College Board's website. Before you begin the application process, you'll need to register. Be sure to keep your username and password in a safe place—you'll need them to sign in and complete your Profile application or check the status later.
Once you have your username and password with the College Board, you can start filling out the Profile application. You'll be asked a number of financial questions, similar to the FAFSA. However, there are also some questions that aren't asked on the FAFSA, including questions on topics like home equity and other information that your parents may need to provide.
What Do I Need For The Profile?
The College Board recommends that you or your guardians have the following information ready before you begin the application:
- Federal income tax returns from the last 2 years
- W-2 forms and other records of money earned during the last year
- Records of untaxed income and benefits for the last 2 years
- Current bank statements
- Current mortgage information
- Records of savings, stocks, bonds, trusts, and other investments
- Your noncustodial parent's email address, if applicable
Remember, you can only fill out the Profile application online. If you don't have access to a computer at home, you can print out a pre-application worksheet from the Profile website using a public computer (at a school computer lab, library, etc.). Then, you can prepare your answers at home (with your parents if you're under 18). This will save you time when you return to a public computer to complete the application.
When Should I Submit My Profile Application?
You should complete the Profile at least 2 weeks before your earliest college or scholarship priority filing date. If you're a high school senior, you may want to find all of the Profile deadlines for the schools you're applying to, and submit all of your Profile applications before that date.
How Much Does It Cost To Apply?
Unlike the FAFSA, which is free, the Profile charges a fee to apply. An online fee of $25 covers your initial application and providing your results to one college. Any additional schools that require the Profile after that will cost an additional $16 each.
You may be eligible for fee waivers based on the financial information on your application. For example, if you're from a low-income family and it's your first time attending college, your application and reporting fees will be waived. This waiver will be automatically credited by the Profile's website and is good for up to eight schools.