The CSS Profile form, a service of the College Board, is used by students to apply for non-Federal financial aid at over 600 universities. In other words, the CSS is used to apply for scholarships and programs offered by individual schools. The FAFSA, on the other hand, is used to apply for Federal programs such as Stafford and Perkins Loans, as well as Pell Grants.
Unlike the FAFSA, which is free to complete, the CSS Profile form costs $25 to create and submit to one school. Additional schools costs $16 per submission. A limited amount of fee waivers are available to low-income families.
Since the CSS Profile form only covers a certain group of schools, you should check the Participating Programs List before you spend the time and money to apply.
While the CSS Profile form has no specific deadline, you should submit it at least two weeks before the financial aid deadline at your school.
CSS Aid EligibilityWhereas Federal financial aid is calculated based on a strict formula across all students nationwide, the CSS Profile form allows colleges to calculate aid eligibility for their own programs based on whatever criteria they set. Hence, the questions on one school’s CSS Profile may vary dramatically from another school’s.
Because the CSS Profile form is for private scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs, the schools are permitted to consider other factors not considered on the FAFSA form. These include items such as the value of a parent’s home, insurance contract values, and annual retirement plan contributions.