top of page
  • Writer's pictureJeff Boron

Understanding the CSS Profile: A Guide for Students and Parents

We help students and families navigate college planning. This blog serves as an informative tool to help WNY and Buffalo to better understand the many moving parts associated with sending your kid to college. FAFSA is changing, and we recommend you read our recent blog to learn more about how it's changing, but today we wanted to focus on the CSS profile.

Most people know every student needs to complete the FAFSA, but we can help take all the financial form headaches off your hands. We provide a service that takes care of your FAFSA, TAP, and CSS profile. Let's take a few minutes to talk about what the CSS profile is, how it affects your college bill, and why it's vital to complete for almost every student.

What is the CSS Profile?

Used by more than 250 institutions across the country, the CSS Profile is a form that can qualify students for aid packages funded by the associated college. FAFSA on the other hand, is associated with money from the federal and state government, whereas the CSS Profile awards what's known as "institutional aid." This means grants and scholarships. Not every school uses the CSS, but if yours does, you should complete it, and don't wait!

As the FAFSA has recently undergone a full simplification overhaul, the CSS is much lengthier and more detailed than the original FAFSA.

What is the Difference Between CSS Profile & FAFSA?

To get a deeper understanding of the difference between the two, here's a simple chart to help break it all down.

CSS Profile


Financial Aid Provided

Grants, scholarships, and loans provided by school

Federal and state aid, including grants, scholarships and loans

Where Students Apply

College Board


$25 per school, $16 per additional school



U.S. citizens & international students

U.S. citizens, some non-U.S. citizens (refugees, asylum seekers, permanent residents)

Participating Schools

Any postsecondary institution that offers federal financial aid

Application Renewal

Every Year

Every Year

Its vital to remember that the CSS Profile is NOT a substitute for the FAFSA. The CSS Profile is purely supplementary for specific colleges and universities. FAFSA is where you'll need to go for federal student loans, federal Pell Grants, or other state grants.

Who Decides Who Gets Rewarded?

The CSS Profile is more labor intensive for the form-filler than the FAFSA, specifically because colleges and universities want as much information about students as possible. This helps Directors of Financial Aid and other professionals to determine who they want to reward with institutional aid.

Many colleges add supplemental questions to gain a deeper look at a student and their families financial situation. It shouldn't be misconstrued however, that more assets means a lower amount of aid. Each college or university will have their own decision process to determine eligibility based on their own interpretation of the CSS Profile. We have had experience filling these out for students with many of the most popular universities, so we have a keen understanding of how to maximize your use of the CSS Profile.

When is the CSS Profile Due?

Yesterday! Ok not really, but we recommend getting your CSS Profile information in the hands of your top college choices as soon as possible. Individual schools will have their specified deadlines, which we can help you with. Most schools look at the time between January 1 and March 1, but the earlier you apply the better your chances of being rewarded.

We Can Help with Your CSS Profile

The CSS Profile requires more information than the FAFSA, and can be challenging to complete. This is why we offer a service to fill out all your financial aid forms. It's certainly worth giving us a call or filling out our contact form to save yourself a lot of time, and with our experience we can assure you that we'll offer you the best case scenario for your situation. By not filling out the CSS profile, or having an error, you could miss out on thousands of dollars in institutional gift aid that is only offered through your college's financial aid funds!

bottom of page