Helpful Tips on Completing the CSS ProfileTM
If you're applying for financial aid, you may have to submit the CSS Profile. The application is required (in addition to the FAFSA) at roughly 200 colleges and universities across the country. The Profile, as it's called for short, asks questions similar to the FAFSA, but dives a bit deeper into the details of an applicant's family finances and household information. We regularly receive questions about the Profile, so we've compiled some helpful tips below for anyone completing the application.
FAFSA & CSS Profile
If a school you're applying to requires the CSS Profile, you still need to submit the FAFSA to that school. Some schools require the CSS Profile because it asks families for more detailed information, which financial aid offices believe helps them to more equitably determine eligibility for their own financial aid funds. But schools are still required to use the FAFSA data to determine federal and state financial aid, so they must require that application as well.
Creating an Account
To complete and submit the Profile, you'll need to log in under a College Board student account. Most students already have one if they've taken the SAT or an AP Test, so you can have the student log in under his or her College Board account and complete the Profile that way. If you'd like to create your own account as the parent (perhaps to keep your financial information private), you'll need to create a student account for parent use. Simply create a new student account using your own parent information. You can find out more details on the process here. Whichever account you use, you'll complete the entire Profile (student information, parent information, etc.) under that account. It makes no difference whether you complete the Profile under a student or parent account.
Completing the Form
For divorced or separated families, the Profile, like the FAFSA, will ask for information from the student, the custodial parent (the parent with whom the student lived the most in the previous year), and the custodial parent's current spouse, if there is one. Some schools will require the noncustodial parent to submit a separate Profile with his or her information. If custody of the student is pretty even, designate the custodial parent as the one who provides the most financial support. If that is also pretty even, just select one parent as the custodial parent and keep that consistent throughout the student's college years.
Though colleges that collect the Profile used to be able to see the other colleges where you sent your application, that is no longer the case.
Undocumented students can't receive federal or state financial aid, but some colleges and universities offer their own financial aid funds to this population. Many of those schools use the Profile. Students will indicate their citizenship status on the application, which will let schools knows the type of financial aid they can offer.
The Profile asks for the value of a parents' retirement plan. Though it's not a required question, the College Board highly encourages families to answer it. The organization uses the data for research purposes, and some schools will use the information to determine if they should make other considerations for the family. For example, if they see that a family hasn't sufficiently saved for retirement, then they may make some adjustments to lower the parent contribution.
If you have more than one child required to submit the CSS Profile, you will have to do two CSS Profiles, even if your children are applying/attending the same school. Though parent information will be the same on the two forms, the student financial data will differ.
The FAFSA only allows you to list ten colleges at one time on the application. There's no maximum on the Profile.
Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS Profile does not link directly to the IRS to pull in your tax return information. So you'll need to reference your tax return for all income questions and type your information into the application. The Profile will reference the lines in your tax return where the requested data can be found.
Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS Profile will ask for the value of your primary home. This can be an estimate. You can check Zillow for this figure or determine a number based on recent home sales in your neighborhood.
The Profile asks about the amount owed on a home (where you could include your mortgage and a home equity line of credit (HELOC)) and then the amount owed on the primary mortgage on the home. Some schools only want to know a family's primary mortgage amount, and don't consider any additional debt on the home, such as a second mortgage or HELOC, when calculating home equity. Most schools consider all of the debt on the home, but it's up to each school to decide how they want to calculate a family's home equity. By asking both questions, the Profile allows the school to decide which figures to use.
You will be asked to report the value of 529 accounts for all of your children, as they are all considered parent assets. The Profile does not ask for the value of a grandparent or other family member 529 account, though students are asked on the Profile how much they expect to receive from relatives other than their parents to pay for educational expenses.
The Profile now allows you to submit corrections to the application one time after submission. Corrections are permitted only after the original application has been delivered (which takes roughly 24 hours). There is no charge for corrections.
If you'd like an overview of the CSS Profile, we invite you to watch our What to Know about the CSS Profile webinar, available on demand. And if you have questions we haven't answered, call us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.