What is the CSS Profile and how do I apply?

    Brittany Mailhot
    Brittany Mailhot

    Brittany is a content writer with a passion for education, travel, and the great outdoors. She has experience in both international education and higher education.

    What is the CSS Profile and how do I apply?
    Contents is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

      For most students, leaving high school and preparing for college is a thrilling time in their lives. However, with both college tuition and student loan interest rates constantly on the rise, figuring out how to pay for your education can seem like an impossible task. Luckily, you don’t have to go through it alone. Completing the FAFSA and the CSS Profile are great ways to discover the financial aid available to you and help you earn you degree.

      What is the CSS Profile?

      Administered by the College Board, the CSS Profile is used to determine your eligibility for institutional financial aid. It is similar to the FAFSA, but it focuses on financial aid from colleges and universities rather than from the federal government. Almost 400 colleges, universities, and scholarship funds use the CSS Profile to provide over $9B in financial aid to students.

      Most students are familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which must be completed annually to determine eligibility to Pell Grant and other federal financial aid programs. The majority of schools also use the FAFSA to award need-based aid to incoming and returning students. On the other hand, some schools, and even scholarship funds, prefer to get a deeper look into their students’ financial situations when determining financial aid packages – that’s where the CSS Profile comes in handy.

      Unlike the FAFSA, most schools don’t require students to fill out the CSS Profile. Your school will provide information during the admissions process if it’s needed. You can also check out a list of schools, universities, and scholarship funds that use the CSS Profile on the College Board website. Additionally, you only need to complete the CSS Profile one time during your college education.

      Popular online programs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

      In this article, we explain the ins and outs of the CSS Profile. What is the CSS Profile? Do you need to complete it? How much aid will you get? Below we provided you with all of the information you need.

      What are the benefits of completing the CSS Profile?

      The CSS Profile can give you the opportunity to receive additional financial aid and reduce your student debt. Besides allowing you to access school-specific awards, the CSS Profile paints a more comprehensive picture of you and your family’s financial situation. One drawback of the FAFSA is that it reduces everything to numbers. On the CSS Profile you can provide an explanation of special financial circumstances and reasons you would benefit from receiving more aid.

      » Read: Why is financial literacy important for college students?

      How do I apply for the CSS Profile?

      The first step towards completing the CSS Profile is to either log in or create a new College Board account. You can use the same login information that you used for the SAT, PSAT, or AP exams. Once that is done, you are ready to begin your application. If you can’t complete the application all at once, you’re able to save your progress and return later. After you have answered all the questions, go ahead and hit “Submit”.

      After submitting your application, you can review the status of your application and any additional steps on your dashboard. If payment is needed, you can pay with a debit or credit card and the reports will be sent to your listed schools after the payment is processed.

      How much financial aid can I receive?

      The amount of aid you can receive from the CSS Profile varies by student and institution. Different schools and scholarship funds have varying levels of aid available to students. This will also depend on your and your family’s current financial situation.

      How much does the CSS Profile cost?

      The standard fee for the CSS Profile is $25 for the initial application and $16 per additional school. Families with adjusted gross income less than $100,000 per year can complete the application for free, with no limit on the number of schools. Additionally, waivers are available for special circumstances.

      What is the CSS Profile deadline?

      Like the FAFSA, the CSS Profile becomes available on October 1st each year. However, deadlines vary by school or organization. You generally receive specific information on deadlines from your listed schools or scholarship funds. The College Board recommends completing your CSS Profile 2 weeks prior to the stated deadline in case additional information or corrections are needed.

      How long does it take to complete the CSS Profile?

      Completing the CSS Profile can be a bit of a lengthy process that takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. How long it takes depends on your computer skills, having your documents ready to go, and how many schools are listed on your application. If you’re sending the CSS Profile to multiple schools, the process may take longer because schools can add their own questions to the application.

      Luckily, the College Board has announced that they’re creating a shorter version of the form which is expected to be launched in Fall 2022. And remember – you can save your progress and return later if you need a break.

      Documents required to complete the CSS Profile

      your and your parents’ most recently completed tax returns

      W2s and other records of income for the current year

      records of untaxed income and benefits for current and most recent tax years

      current bank statements

      records of savings, bonds, trusts, and other assets

      What kind of questions are on the CSS Profile?

      Many of the questions on the CSS Profile are similar to the FAFSA. You are required to provide demographic information, information on current and previous income and taxes, academic information, and business and retirement value. In addition, the CSS Profile asks about home equity value, anticipated income, and any extenuating circumstances affecting your ability to pay for school. There is also a section allowing you to add additional comments and information that may be relevant.

      How do I make corrections to the CSS Profile?

      After you submit the CSS Profile, you are able to make one correction by selecting “Correct Your CSS Profile” on your dashboard. Before doing this, you should reach out to your school(s) to see if the correction is required or not. It is important to note that this option only allows you to add information – not change or delete information.

      What is the CSS Profile dashboard?

      You can think of the CSS Profile dashboard as the main hub for your application. It provides you with information on your application status, the deadlines for the schools you are applying to, and more. You can also check your messages and view next steps. Your dashboard is updated in real time and can be viewed from both mobile and web browsers.

      What is the CSS Profile Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC)?

      The Institutional Documentation Service, or IDOC, is a service used by some colleges and organizations that require the CSS Profile. The purpose of IDOC is to gather your family’s financial documents and distribute them to the institutions you have selected. You can also use IDOC to track documents you have submitted and review financial aid deadlines.

      What if my parents are separated or divorced?

      Many institutions require both parents to share their financial information on the CSS Profile, even if the student primarily or solely lives with one parent. If information from both parents is required, you’ll be prompted to enter the email address of your non-custodial parent and College Board sends them information on creating an account and completing the CSS Profile.

      If you don’t have contact with one of your parents, you can complete a CSS Profile Waiver Request. This waiver request needs to be sent to each of the institutions listed on your CSS Profile.

      Tips for completing the CSS Profile

      • If you are not sure how to respond to a question on the CSS Profile, you can click into the answer field and tips appear to help you out. You can also reach out to the College Board Customer Support Center for additional assistance
      • Be sure that the information on your CSS Profile matches the information on your FAFSA. Schools often cross-compare these 2 forms to check for accuracy
      • Pre-tax retirement contributions count as income for the CSS Profile, so be sure to include these in your application
      • Make sure to save a copy of your completed CSS Profile for reference later on
      • You can appeal your financial aid award to receive more aid by reaching out to your school’s financial aid office

      While it may seem tedious to fill out yet another application for financial aid, the reality is that the CSS Profile can help make college more affordable and provide you with even more options for funding your education. It is especially beneficial if you have extenuating or special circumstances affecting your ability to pay for school. Finding out your eligibility for institutional scholarships, grants, and other awards is a great way to kickstart your college career while ditching stress related to student loans and tuition payments.


      If the schools you are applying to require the CSS Profile and you want to receive institutional financial aid, then you need to complete it even if you are an international student. You must complete the application in English and provide your financial information in the currency that matches your financial documents.

      The CSS in CSS Profile is an abbreviation of Central Scholarship Service.

      The general cost is $25, although if your family income is less than $100,000 the CSS Profile. Is free. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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