The 2023-2024 CSS Profile is available on October 1, 2022. Before you dive head first into filling out this beast, let’s break it down with some basic information and tips to make your life easier.

What is it?
The College Scholarship Service financial aid application is required at over 200 colleges and universities, in addition to the FAFSA if you want to be considered for need based aid, and in some cases merit based scholarships. The CSS profile determines institutional aid from the school, not federal aid. It digs deeper into a family’s financial situation than the FAFSA does, with 17 sections and hundreds of questions. Consider it like the FAFSA on steroids. It’s going to require more information and take more time to complete.

Learn how home equity affects the CSS Profile: How Home Equity Affects The CSS Profile

Who requires it and when is it due?
The College Board (who is in charge of the CSS profile) has a complete listing of all colleges, universities, and scholarship programs that use it. You can find that list here. Please check the school website or contact the institution for more information and due dates.

How much does it cost?
The CSS Profile is free for families with an adjusted gross income up to $100,000. It is also free to students who qualify for an SAT fee waiver or if you are an orphan or ward of the court under the age of 24. Otherwise the price is $25 for the first application and $16 for each additional one.

What’s different from last year?
If you’ve had the pleasure of filling out the CSS profile before, you may notice this year’s version looks a little different. The questions are basically all the same, but the layout and feel as you progress through the profile is not. Instead of 10-15 questions per page, you will now only see 2-4 questions. The font is much bigger and the text color is darker as well.

In addition, there is no navigation bar on the left side of your screen showing the different sections and your progress through the application. Now, you must click on the Sections hyperlink in the upper left hand corner of your screen to see the individual sections and your progress.

Less questions per page, more clicks on Save and Continue, and no navigation bar to track your progress to the finish line makes it feel longer.

Learn more about applying for financial aid: Applying for Financial Aid: FAFSA and CSS Profile

Do I have to answer every question?
You are not required to answer every question on the CSS profile. Only answer what is required and what will benefit your personal situation. This year, if a question must be answered, you will see the word required in parentheses after the question. Last year there was a red asterisk at the end of the question.

We strongly encourage you to NOT answer questions about retirement or social security because you will have to disclose your retirement account balances. Retirement assets are NOT included in the institutional need calculation, so there is no need to share it.

We also recommend that you select the “None” option in the Special Circumstances section, even if other options apply. Keep this information as a bargaining tool for later on in the financial aid appeals process. Always be honest, but less is more when filling out the CSS Profile. There is no need to overshare information if it isn’t required. You will more than likely have an actual conversation with the school’s financial aid department later down the line and can provide more information to help your case, if needed.

What if I’m Divorced or Separated?
If you are a two household family, most colleges require BOTH households to fill out the CSS profile. You will complete two separate applications. If you can’t get information from one parent, reach out to the school requiring the CSS profile and communicate that directly with the financial aid department. They will walk you through the process of requesting a noncustodial parent waiver.

Learn more about what divorced/separated family’s should know about the financial aid applications: What Divorced, Separated and Two Household Families Need To Know About the FAFSA and CSS Profile

The CSS profile is a necessary evil when applying for financial aid from certain schools. Be sure to set aside some time and patience to knock it out. Most importantly, if you have any questions we are here to help.

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