This week we have a guest blogger, Scott Moffitt.  Scott is President/CEO of Summit College Funding in Cincinnati, OH as well as CoFounder of College Planning Relief and author of College and Retirement: You can do Both! He’s all about saving families thousands on college.


There are 2 methods for determining financial aid: the federal and institutional methodologies. The federal methodology is used to disperse all state and federal based aid, while the institutional methodology is used by a select group (not all) of private schools to disperse private aid.

By completing the FAFSA,Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you have applied for federal and
state aid.  There is no cost to complete the FAFSA, and it may be completed beginning January 1, of each year. For incoming college freshman, this would be January 1 of their senior year in high school. Everyone should complete the FAFSA, as there is not an income cut off for receiving aid.

Complete FAFSA Early

Often times, families are inclined to wait until they’re prepared to file the previous year’s taxes before they submit the FAFSA. This is a mistake. It is wise to complete FAFSA as early in January as possible, thereby being at the front of the line for aid. Complete your FAFSA using estimated figures and those contained on your final pay stub for the year. You will have an opportunity to finalize FAFSA with exact figures at a later date.

Who Completes CSS?

Private schools using the Institutional Methodology require families to also complete the CSS Profile form administered by the College Board. This service requires families to register with the College Board and costs $25, which includes submission to one school. Each additional school costs $16 and there are only a few hundred schools that require completion of The Profile; click here to see the list.


The Profile differs from the FAFSA in a couple of key areas beyond the fee. The deadline for submission is actually in the fall of the senior year of high school and the specific date is set by each school. It is very important to be aware of the deadlines! Missing a submission deadline is simply not tolerated.

Additionally, the CSS Profile treats income and assets differently than the FAFSA. For example, home equity and home value are not considered with the federal methodology; however, the institutional methodology of the Profile does take them into account.

Pay close attention to which forms the schools require and when they are due. It could be you will submit a mix of FAFSA and Profile. Our November post on What to do in Advance of FAFSA Filing can also be helpful.  Most importantly complete the forms correctly and ultimately with accurate data.