One of the first things you should do after deciding to apply for financial assistance is to check the aid section of the college’s admission material. There you will find which aid applications are required and when they are due. If you apply to one or more PROFILE colleges, you will have to complete that form in addition to the FAFSA.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when applying for a financial aid award at a PROFILE college.
The basics of the CSS Profile
- The PROFILE is a fee-based financial aid application. Based on information entered on the PROFILE, a limited number of fee waivers are automatically granted. These waivers are granted to eligible first-time college applicants from families with few assets and very low income.
- Submission deadlines for the PROFILE vary by school, so be sure to check with each institution for its specific deadline. The PROFILE can be due as early as the fall of your senior year. At the very latest, the PROFILE should be filed no later than 14 days before the earliest priority filing date your colleges or programs specify.
Completing the PROFILE financial aid application
- Your first step is to register for the PROFILE. This is where you list the code numbers of your colleges, pay the fee, and answer a number of questions. Based on this information, PROFILE items are personalized to match your characteristics and to provide the colleges you list with what they need to know. You can do this online or by phone.
- Once you are registered, you'll be able to complete the PROFILE application (either the online version or the paper form). Some schools may require you to complete additional forms, such as the Business/Farm Supplement or the Noncustodial Parent's Supplement.
- Gather all the material you’ll need to answer the questions. For example, you will have to know the amounts for salary, dividend, and interest income; taxes paid; and the value of any savings and investments.
- After completing the application, you'll receive an acknowledgement summarizing your PROFILE information and listing your colleges.
Comparing the CSS Profile with the FAFSA
- In measuring your family’s ability to pay for college, the PROFILE uses the Institutional Methodology (IM) instead of the Federal Methodology (FM), which is used on the FAFSA. Although the two systems are fundamentally the same—in both the IM and FM, the primary “drivers” that determine how much you will be expected to pay for college are income, assets, family size, and the number of children in college—the IM takes into account whether your family owns a home and assumes a minimum student contribution.
- The PROFILE contains questions specific to the schools you're applying to, while the FAFSA is a standardized financial aid application designed to be used in conjunction with federal aid.
- The PROFILE allows financial aid counselors to take special circumstances into greater consideration.
This financial aid application comes with bad news and good news
Having to complete the PROFILE is a good news/bad news story. The bad news is that there’s a fee and the form is much more complex than the FAFSA application. The good news is that the colleges that use the CSS PROFILE have billions of dollars of their own scholarship money to award, beyond what the federal government can offer.
So roll up your sleeves and get down to business. The extra effort may pay off in additional aid.