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The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (often written as CSS PROFILE), short for the College Scholarship Service PROFILE, is an application distributed by the College Board in the United States allowing college students to apply for financial aid. It is primarily designed to give private member institutions of the College Board a closer look into the finances of a student and family. It is much more detailed than the FAFSA. The College Board estimates it will take most students/families between 45 minutes and two hours to complete the CSS PROFILE application. Generally speaking, most public and state universities do not use CSS PROFILE to make financial aid decisions, while most private colleges do.
The CSS PROFILE asks questions about the financial status of the student and the student's parents. The information the student gives in the CSS PROFILE is then sent to colleges or universities that the student specifies.
Along with the FAFSA, the CSS PROFILE is the most common financial aid application that students in the United States fill out.
Each CSS PROFILE costs a fee, varying from year to year.
The application for the CSS PROFILE is usually available on October 1 in the calendar year preceding the year that a student hopes to receive financial aid. Generally, colleges with early acceptance programs (student receives admission decision before the new year) use the CSS PROFILE to make preliminary financial aid decisions, even though the FAFSA application is now available in October as well. Then after student completes the FAFSA (the official financial aid application) colleges may then make adjustments to their financial aid awards if necessary.
For the 2017-2018 scholastic year, the application fee is $25.00 to submit CSS PROFILE to a single college or university, and $16.00 per each additional college. Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and most other prestigious schools require the CSS PROFILE. Princeton University is a notable exception because it does not require a CSS PROFILE but instead has its own free financial aid application form. Students may, however, submit a CSS PROFILE to Princeton and later automatically transmit that information onto Princeton's form.
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