The College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile takes a more in-depth assessment of a family’s financial situation. Approximately 200 institutions currently use it to determine eligibility for institutional financial aid, and around 100 more for scholarship programs.

Schools that give away a significant amount of their own institutional need-based aid use the CSS Profile because it provides more detailed and accurate information than the FAFSA and is nearly bulletproof because it blocks loopholes used to hide assets.

Institutional financial aid can be grants, scholarships, or loans directly from the school. Each school will have unique questions and formulas embedded in the CSS Profile. Schools that require the Profile use home equity in their asset assessment but use home equity in different ways. Other factors include how untaxed income is assessed, business write-offs, cost of living multipliers, private K-12 education, and student summer work responsibilities.

The CSS Profile is complicated, with over 200 questions you have to answer. Therefore, we recommend the below webinar from Massachusetts Education Financing Authority to guide you through the 2023 CSS Profile.

Pro Tips

  • The CSS Profile is not free like the FAFSA. Domestic undergraduate students with a family income of up to $100,000 are free. The initial application is $25, and additional reports are $16. If you qualify for an SAT fee waiver, you may be able to submit it for free.
  • Gather the required documents before you begin completing the application: completed tax returns, W-2 forms, records of untaxed income and benefits, assets, and bank statements.
  • If you’re coming from a home where the parents are divorced, separated, or never married, make sure you know whether the non-custodial parent needs to complete their own CSS Profile.
  • If you are applying for financial aid, know which colleges require the CSS Profile. Suppose the non-custodial parent is unlikely or unwilling to contribute to paying for college. In that case, you can either select other colleges or appeal the requirement to submit the non-custodial Profile.
  • Still have questions? Live chat is available, and the helpline for US students is 1-844-202-0524.