LEAP welcomes the return of our partner and guest blogger, Beatrice Schultz with Westface College Planning. She’s an expert on planning how to pay for college and getting a great return on your investment.
While not as commonly used as theFAFSA, for those colleges that do use it, completing the CSS Profile is a requirement to qualify for any non-federal financial aid, and who doesn’t want some extra money toward their college fund?
It is very likely that one or more colleges in your personal top 10 list will need 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 Profile is administered by the CollegeBoard (our friends who own the SAT).
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 2017 admission. Some colleges have deadlines as early as November 1, 2016 for Early Action and Early Decision applications. The FAFSA also became available on October 1, 2016 (note: this is a NEW date!).
4) Every college requires your submission of the FAFSA for consideration of any government 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. For the CSS Profile, 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 are specifically targeted for those 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 a statement 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 list of colleges that use the CSS Profile and 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!