The CSS Profile


Step into any lecture on financial aid for college or even college financial aid offices themselves and the following will likely occur: The acronym FAFSA will be pronounced in ten different ways. The FAFSA, which stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the federal formula designed to determine the Expected Family Contribution or EFC.

While filling out the FAFSA is a requirement to receive any Federal need-based grants and/or loans, it is not the determining factor for the EFC at all of America’s colleges.

Another formula with an easier acronym to pronounce, known most commonly as the CSS Profile is a methodology used at Ivy League schools as well as many of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities.

But what exactly is the profile? Let’s discuss:

The first point to note is that the Profile, just like the FAFSA is a detailed financial aid application that determines an EFC. This EFC due to several factors can be similar or completely different than the FAFSA EFC. The Profile for instance looks at some financial information in a different way than the FAFSA and some information is included in the Profile that is not factored into the FAFSA formula. Examples include consideration of any family businesses as well as the family’s primary residence.

Another key difference between the two is that while the FAFSA is a free government formula, the Profile costs money and is administered by and submitted through The College Board. The initial fee is $25 which includes one report for one college and any subsequent report costs $16 per university.

Also unlike the FAFSA, the Profile can be submitted as early as October 1st while the FAFSA cannot be filed until January 1st.