The 2024-2025 CSS Profile is available now. Before you dive headfirst into filling out this beast, let’s break it down with some basic information and tips to make your life easier.
What is the CSS Profile?
The College Scholarship Service financial aid application is required at over 200 colleges and universities that follow the Institutional methodology. So for these schools, if you want to be considered for need-based aid, and in some cases, merit-based scholarships, you have to complete both the CSS profile AND the FAFSA. The CSS profile determines institutional aid from the school, not federal aid (that’s what the FAFSA does).
The CSS profile digs deeper into a family’s financial situation than the FAFSA does, with 17 sections and hundreds of questions, including asking about home equity. Consider it like the FAFSA on steroids. It’s going to require more information and take more time to complete, so be sure to carve out extra time to sit down and complete it.
Learn how home equity affects the CSS Profile: How Home Equity Affects The CSS Profile
Where is the CSS Profile required?
Now you’re probably wondering where is the CSS profile required. 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 the list of CSS profile schools here.
When is the CSS Profile deadline?
Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS profile deadline varies from school to school. Generally, it’s January 1 – March 31 your child’s senior year or the year they plan to attend college in the Fall. Please check the school website or contact the institution’s financial aid office for more information and specific due dates.
How much does the CSS Profile cost?
The CSS profile can cost some families money. You may qualify for a CSS profile fee waiver if you fit into any of the categories below as a domestic undergraduate student:
- Families with an adjusted gross income up to $100,000
- Students who qualify for an SAT fee waiver
- Children who are an orphan or ward of the court under the age of 24
If your family or student doesn’t fall under any of these categories, then the price is $25 for the first application and $16 for each additional one. You will fill out the FAFSA and CSS profile every year your student attends college, so keep this cost in mind as you budget for the year ahead.
Any big changes this year?
There aren’t many significant changes from the 2023-24 CSS Profile to the 2024-25 version. The College Board did a big overhaul 2 years ago, so if you haven’t filled it out in a couple of years it may look a bit different to you. The questions are basically all the same, but the layout and feel as you progress through the profile is not.
If this is your first time filling it out, here are a few screenshots of what you can expect.
2-5 Questions per Page
The CSS Profile guides you through a series of sections. You must answered the required questions, before you can move on to the next page. Most pages will have 2-5 questions on them. The yellow boxes offer helpful hints or guidance.
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 on the CSS Profile?
You are not required to answer every question on the CSS profile. Only answer what is required and what will benefit your personal situation.
If a question must be answered, you will see the word required in parentheses after the question.
There is a required question about retirement asset values on the CSS profile. We wish this wasn’t a required question, because it is not part of the calculation, but it is required, so you must answer 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.
Learn more about financial aid appeals: How to Navigate Financial Aid Appeals with Your College-Bound Student
What other things do we recommend when filling out the CSS profile? Check out the full financial aid survival guide: 7 Critical FAFSA & CSS Profile Mistakes to Avoid
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, one is filled out by the custodial parent, and the other is filled out by the non-custodial parent. You will not see each other’s information. 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.
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, we are here to help.
Have more questions about the CSS Profile? We have answers!
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