Article Highlights

  • The CSS Profile is required by about 250 colleges and scholarship programs and it can help you access financial aid from your college, also known as institutional aid.
  • You can submit your CSS Profile beginning on October 1. Schools may have different deadlines to file.
  • If your parents are divorced, you may be required to fill out an additional profile for the noncustodial parent.

Figuring out how to pay for college can be overwhelming. There are forms to fill out, financial information to track down, and new acronyms to familiarize yourself with. And one of those you may have come across is CSS Profile. This is in addition to completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to determine eligibility for financial aid. The CSS Profile can open up additional paths towards aid, including scholarships.

What is the CSS Profile?

The CSS Profile is required by about 250 colleges and scholarship programs and it can help you access nonfederal financial aid (i.e., institutional aid, or money coming directly from your college or university). It is more extensive than the FAFSA and looks at your family's finances, including:

  • Income
  • Assets
  • Expenses, including home equity on the primary home residence, retirement accounts, and life insurance plans.

If applicable, the CSS Profile may also look at the income and assets of a noncustodial parent, who is typically the parent you did not live with the majority of your time over the past year.

Get started

If you're a student, you might already have an account with the College Board®, namely if you registered with them for your AP®, PSAT/NMSQT®, or SAT® exams. If not, it's easy for students and/or parents to sign up here.

Note your deadlines

Like the FAFSA, you can submit your CSS Profile as early as October 1 of your senior year in high school. College or program due dates can vary among CSS, so don't forget to check out specific deadlines before you start the process and make sure to follow the deadlines according to each school.

Gather the required information

Take advantage of the CSS Profile Tutorial, which helps guide you through each step of the process. Generally, you will need:

  • Your or your parents' current and previous years' tax details
  • Income figures
  • Information on your or your parents' financial assets

Even if you've qualified as an "independent" applicant (e.g., if you're over 24 years old, married, have a legal dependent), some institutions still require you to submit your parents' information. If you see the parental information section listed within your application, you must fill it out.

If your parents are divorced, enter the information for the parent you have lived with the most for the past 12 months. Just note that, depending on the institutions you submit to, you may be required to fill out an additional profile for the noncustodial parent.

Filling out the application

The amount of time the application will take will depend on how much information you need to input. Having your information handy may make the process faster, but it could be a good idea to earmark a block of uninterrupted time to fill the application out. But if you need to complete it in sections, that’s okay, too. Unlike the registration process, you can save your progress and exit, so you don't have to do everything in one sitting.

Be accurate

Be thorough and truthful when filling out this application, as errors or omissions could disqualify you from receiving aid.

The College Board's Institutional Documentation Service may request some of these documents down the road, so don't throw out your documentation even after you've submitted your CSS Profile.

Submit it

Once you feel ready to submit, double-check everything. You can add more institutions after you submit, but you can't change the substance of the profile itself. Want to remove any schools or programs? Do that now, before you submit.

The CSS Profile charges $25 for the application and one college or program report. Additional reports cost $16. Fee waivers are available for certain students (up to 8 colleges) and are processed immediately during the application process. Students have to have a family gross income under $100,000 to be eligible for a fee waiver. If a student qualifies for a free SAT waiver, they can qualify for a free CSS Profile waiver.

Once you've finalized your profile and paid the fees, your application will be sent to the institutions you chose.


FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover® Student Loans.

CSS Profile®, AP®, SAT®, and College Board® are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this site.

PSAT/NMSQT® is a registered trademark of the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which are not affiliated with, and do not endorse, this site.

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