conduct a smarter college search

Go Inside

Explore college admissions topics in depth.

What is the CSS Profile & Do I Have to File It?


You hear so much about the (FAFSA), but then you apply to colleges and some ask for you to fill out a CSS Profile IN ADDITION to the FAFSA. What is that about? A student recently reached out to me with this question and I share my response here with you.

What is it? How is it different than the FAFSA?

Just like the FAFSA, the CSS Profile allows a school to evaluate your financial situation, but it collects additional information for a larger picture of your circumstances.

Why do some schools use it?

The CSS Profile is used by many private colleges and universities. They have larger price tags than state schools and therefor have more money to give away in aid. They will still ask for the FAFSA because that’s how they secure you government aid, but they will use their own institutional methodology to evaluate you via the CSS Profile and determine your full financial aid package.

Do I have to fill it out too?

Yes. If a school is asking for the CSS Profile, then you have to submit it to receive a financial aid offer.

Is it worth it to spend the money on a CSS Profile?

I’ve worked at 2 private universities. Students with substantial financial need often found that, after receiving their aid package, it was cheaper to attend those private schools than state schools. And that was true for me in my own college search. 

If you don’t want to spend the money it takes to fully apply to CSS Profile schools, then don’t. But are the savings now better than potentially spending thousands less to attend college each year? And if the cost of applying is out of reach, ask a school’s admissions office for relief and you can usually get it. Your school counselor can vouch for your SAT, application, and CSS Profile fees to be waived if it’s a financial burden.

Jen ParticaComment