Once you dive into the process of finding financial aid for college, the FAFSA is something you're hit with almost immediately. Pretty much every school requires that it be filled out after admission, and it's one of the most popular forms of financial aid for most people. However, many schools also make references to the CSS PROFILE application along with the FAFSA.

People often have trouble picking out the differences between the two when attempting to understand what they will be getting from each particular financial aid source. Since many private institutions require that the CSS PROFILE be filled out in addition to the FAFSA when applying for financial assistance, it will be of the utmost importance to you to understand the differences between the two forms. Here is a comparison of the two applications, both being extremely beneficial to you in obtaining the maximum amount of financial assistance:


  • The CSS PROFILE is provided by the CollegeBoard, a nonprofit organization, while the FAFSA is provided by the federal government.
  • Since the CSS PROFILE is not a federal government document, it will inform you of all the non federal financial assistance you are eligible for (loans, scholarships, grants, etc.)
  • The CSS PROFILE is available for submission as early as the fall of each year, while the FAFSA is cannot be sent in until January 1st due to the updates of yearly taxes.
  • The FAFSA asks fairly general questions about your personal finances. The CSS PROFILE, on the other hand, asks more specific questions about your family's income and assets that relate specifically to your unique circumstances. You should also expect some supplemental questions provided by the particular colleges or scholarship programs you have selected. This being said, the CSS PROFILE focuses on your personal assets a great deal, while the FAFSA sticks more to annual income.
  • The FAFSA does not take minimum student contribution into account, while the CSS PROFILE does.
  • One of the most significant differences between the two forms is cost. The FAFSA is completely free, and the CSS PROFILE is not. It charges a $9.00 application fee, plus $16.00 per college or scholarship program that you want your results sent to. Do not let this fee scare you away from filling out the CSS PROFILE! Even if it is not required by your particular institution, it is definitely a beneficial option for receiving more financial aid in addition to federal loans, including money that does not need to be paid back (scholarships and grants).

Categories: Financial Aid | Financial Aid Applications | CSS Profile | FAFSA
Tags: css profile fafsa financial aid financial aid applications

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