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The CSS Profile, short for the College Scholarship Service Profile, is an online application created and maintained by the United States-based College Board that allows college students to apply for non-federal financial aid. It is primarily designed to give member institutions of the College Board a comprehensive look at the financial and family situation of students and their families to use as they determine their eligibility for institutional financial aid. It is more detailed than the United States federal application, Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.
After the FAFSA, which students must fill out to qualify for U.S. federal aid, the CSS Profile is the most common financial aid application that students attending college in the United States fill out. Approximately 400 colleges, universities, and scholarship programs require financial aid applicants to complete a CSS Profile application. Generally speaking, schools that mostly provide state and federal need-based aid, such as many public and state universities, or schools that mostly award merit based scholarships, do not use CSS Profile to make financial aid decisions. While many private colleges, especially those that provide significant need-based institutional aid, do.
The application for the CSS Profile is usually available beginning on October 1 in the calendar year preceding the year that a student hopes to receive financial aid. The CSS Profile asks questions about the financial situation of the student and the student's parents. It also allows applicants the opportunity to provide additional information or special circumstances they want the schools to know about, such as high medical bills, or a recent job loss. The information the student gives in the application is then provided to the colleges, universities, and scholarship programs that the student specifies. The institution then determines the student's eligibility for financial aid.
The application fee is $25.00 to submit CSS Profile to a single college, university, or scholarship program and $16.00 per each additional school or program. First-time US college applicants may receive a CSS Profile fee waiver if the student qualified for an SAT fee waiver, if the student is an orphan or ward of the court under the age of 24, or based on parental income and family size (e.g. for the 2019-20 application a family of four would qualify with income of $45,000 or less).