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What is the CSS Profile and how does it compare to the FAFSA?

About 400 colleges and scholarship providers require the CSS Profile in addition to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). How do they differ from one another?

As the name implies, the FAFSA is free, the CSS Profile is not. While students only need to complete one Profile for the one or more programs that require it, the cost is $25 for the first program and the cost for each additional program or college is $16…although if the student was eligible for a fee waiver from the College Board when taking the SAT, there is a fee waiver for the first eight Profile programs.

Here are some other noticeable differences:

Home Equity: The net worth of a family home is not reported on the FAFSA, but it may be requested on the Profile.

Family Businesses: The net worth of the family business with fewer than 100 employees is not reported on the FAFSA, but it may be requested on the Profile.

Non—Custodial Parent Income And Assets: The income and assets of the other biological parent NOT in the student’s biological parent household are not required on the FAFSA, but she or he may have to provide that financial information on the Profile.

Student Assets: Cash, checking and savings acoounts, and other investments in the student’s name are assessed at 20% by the federal formula behind the FAFSA while they are hit at a 25% rate on the Profile.

Siblings Assets: Assets in the names of the student’s siblings are ignored by the FAFSA, but if the sibling is under 19 and not in college, they will be counted on the Profile.

Deadlines: Like all things financial aid-related, filing the FAFSA and the Profile earlier rather than later is better, after they both become available October 1 each year. With both documents, be sure to check each college’s preferred filing deadline for these important instruments.

For more information on the CSS Profile, go to:


Publication Date: November 2018