By Beatrice Schultz, Westface College Planning (CA)

Seniors: Get ready to complete the CSS Profile!

While not as commonly used as the FAFSA, for those colleges that do use it, completing the CSS Profile boosts your qualification for more financial aid, and who doesn’t want some extra money toward their college fund?

You may not realize it, but the CSS Profile is required by over300 colleges.  It is very likely that one or more colleges in your personal top 10 list will need of the CSS Profile as well as the FAFSA in order to be considered for all available financial aid.

Be prepared: Colleges that request the CSS Profile include those from one end of the spectrum to the other, from the well-known (Santa Clara University), lesser known (Whitmore College), large (Boston University), to small (Pomona) private colleges; even a few public colleges (University of Michigan) opt for the CSS Profile.

How is the CSS Profile Different than the FAFSA?

1)    Unlike the FAFSA which is spearheaded by the federal government, the CSS Profileis administered by the College Board.

2)    While the FAFSA is FREE, the CSS Profile requires a cost for submission ($25 for the first college and $16 for each additional college).

3)    The CSS Profile is now available online for fall 2015 admission.  Some colleges have deadlines as early as November 1, 2014 for Early Action and Early Decision applications.  The FAFSA only becomes available on January 1, 2015.

4)    Every college requires your submission of the FAFSA for consideration of anygovernment financial aid.  Colleges that ask for the CSS Profile require it to determine your eligibility for various non-government avenues of financial aid.

5)    Are you part of a two household family?  The FAFSA only asks for financial and household information for the custodial parent household.  The CSS Profile also inquires about financial and household information for the custodial parent household. In addition, many colleges request that the Noncustodial Profile be separately completed by the noncustodial parent.  For those colleges, an Expected Family Contribution will be calculated for both households.

6)    Colleges that call for the CSS Profile also will likely request copies of tax returns, W2s, plus supplemental forms for every business and farm.  Make sure you know the requirements for every college.  It’s important!.

Is it worth the time and effort to complete the CSS Profile and send in all your financial information?

YES!  Many students who do not qualify for government need based aid do qualify for college-specific financial aid.  You may be one of them!  These institutional funds lie dormant awaiting claim for many students who have income and assets that are too high to qualify for government funds.

Remember, you have to apply to even be considered.  To illustrate, here is astatement on Santa Clara University’s website: “To be considered for the full range of SCU-awarded scholarships and grants, applicants are required to complete a secondary application, the College Scholarship Service/Financial Aid PROFILE.”

Check the financial aid web page for EVERY college on your list.  Discover which explicitly require the CSS Profile and Non-Custodial CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA.  Confirm the related deadlines and submit the application before the cut-off date.

Applying for both the FAFSA and CSS Profile (where requested) guarantees your maximum potential amount of gift aid for college funding from sources other than a student loans!