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An Overview of the CSS PROFILE

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, April 08, 2014

When determining a student's eligibility for a financial aid award, each college makes its own determination about using only the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from the U.S. Department of Education or both the FAFSA and the PROFILE. (The PROFILE is sometimes referred to as the CSS PROFILE, CSS/Profile, or the Profile.) The PROFILE, which is from the College Board, is used to award private grant and scholarship aid.

Like the FAFSA application, applications for the PROFILE are available in your high school guidance office and on the Web. The paper application and the Web site both list which colleges and programs require the PROFILE application. If the college list has changed recently, the Web site will provide the most up-to-date information.

If a college requires the CSS PROFILE

You can register by calling the College Scholarship Service at 800-778-6888 and providing basic demographic information and the names of the colleges to which you are applying. If you prefer, you can register online. The registration process will generate a Pre-Application Worksheet and Instructions that you should review before completing the application. During the registration process, you will create an account that also facilitates some of your dealings with the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT.

Registration packets with a list of the colleges that require the PROFILE are available in most high school guidance offices. There is a fee for the use of this application and you’ll be asked to pay by credit card, debit card, or checking account when you apply. The current cost for this service is $25 for the first college and $16 for each additional college. If you don’t have a credit card, you’ll be billed later.

After you register for the PROFILE

You'll receive a customized financial aid application for your use in applying for institutional aid at the colleges you've designated, as well as some private scholarship programs, like the National Merit Scholarship. (Note: If you're using the paper form and a college's financial aid application deadline is approaching, you can get overnight delivery by paying an extra fee.) The PROFILE contains all the necessary information to calculate your "institutional" EFC. (This is the Expected Family Contribution calculated by a particular institution, rather than the EFC that is calculated by the government on the basis of your FAFSA application.)

Completing the PROFILE financial aid application form

Your individualized application packet will also contain a customized cover letter instructing you about what to do and informing you about deadlines and requirements for the colleges and programs you specified when you registered. These instructions may include codes indicating which colleges have additional questions, and any supplemental forms they require (such as the Business/Farm Supplement, for students whose parents own a business or farm, or the Noncustodial Parent's Supplement, for students whose parents are divorced).

Make sure you submit your PROFILE by the earliest deadline listed. After you do so, you will receive an acknowledgment and a report estimating your "institutional" EFC based on the data elements you provided on your CSS PROFILE. Remember, this is a different formula than that used on the FAFSA.

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