The College Board’s CSS Profile is an online application for undergraduate students to apply for financial aid. It is a single profile used by nearly 400 colleges, universities, professional schools and scholarship programs. It is used to award non-federal financial aid. For federal financial aid, FAFSA is used. However, FAFSA is only used for domestic (i.e. U.S. citizen) applicants.
The CSS profile is a detailed application that contains all your financial information along with your family and parents financial information. This helps in creating a clear picture of a students’ complete financial background. It is available on October 1st of each year.
Check this link to know the names of colleges that accept CSS profiles. Also note that not all colleges support international students. You need to check whether or not it does.
This information is also provided to you while filling in the colleges in your CSS profile application.
Some colleges even support international graduate students.
Well, because it’s always good to have some help to pay for college, especially as an international student. Since, FAFSA is only provided for domestic applicants, CSS provides some relief to international applicants. Of course, there are other scholarships available as well but why not use this service if it is readily available to you. Also, the CSS profile takes into consideration a lot of factors about your financial background, such as your parents income, your siblings, etc.
The application asks you to fill details about family, such as your parents, siblings, their employment information, income, savings, etc.
Once you log in, this appears as your dashboard. It lists all the documents you will need.
The entire form is very detailed and may be time consuming. However, it is not necessary for you to fill in the entire form in one sitting. Your answers are saved as you go along. You can also use the ‘Save and Continue’ button to save and move on along the form. Just remember to finish your application and submit it in time to meet financial aid deadlines. These deadlines are provided once you select your schools. Tip: Most deadlines are between January and March.
1. The first step is to sign in to complete the CSS Profile application is easy.
First go to the CSS Profile website and select the application year. This is the academic year when you plan to attend college and hope to receive financial aid. For example, if your course starts in Fall 2018, select the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 option.
2. Next, log in to your College Board account. If you have already created a College Board Account to view your PSAT/NMSQT, SAT or AP scores, or have registered for the SAT, you should use the same username and password for your CSS Profile application. If not, you can create a new account.
If you create a new account, you will be asked to enter your basic details and set a username and password.
Anyone with your College Board credentials will have access to your CSS Profile application and the information provided. Protect your ID and password!!
3. Next, you need to start filling out the form. You must keep the documents mentioned on your dashboard with you to help fill the form faster.
The first few sections are basic information about you as a student.
- You will need to enter your relationship details with you parents (whether you’re dependant on them or not), you will need to enter the details of your parents.
- You will be asked to enter the details of the colleges you wish to send your CSS profile to. A search tab opens and you can search for your college. The details of whether or not the college supports international students or graduate students in given in this tab. Once you select your college, you can enter the type of student you are(entering or reentering).
- Additional colleges or programs can be added after your initial application is submitted. Simply return to your dashboard and select the "Add a college or program" button.
- You may be required to answer a few new questions if the school you are adding requires additional information. You will not be able to change answers to questions you have previously submitted once you have completed the submission process.
4. Next, comes the parents section. You will have to enter financial details about all the parents you entered in the earlier section.
Note that you need to enter your financial details in the primary currency you entered before. You do not need to convert to USD.
- These financial details include federal tax returns, employment details, income, retirement plans, etc. You will also be asked about your -parents assets and liabilities. This covers multiple sections and can be quite long. It is always beneficial to have all your financial documents, like tax returns, previous years financial documents, any savings, FDs, retirement plan documents (if any), etc. at hand.
- The CSS Profile will ask you to provide family income information from 2 years prior to the year you plan to attend college. You should typically sit with your parents to fill out this form.
- If there are any major changes coming up, like big investments or expenditures, that will affect your ability to pay for school, you can mention them in the ‘Special Circumstances’ section given later.
- The scholarship officers need all these documents to know whether your financial situation is stable or varies a lot from year to year. This helps them decide what kind of scholarships you can be awarded.
5. The next sections are about Student data.
- You will be asked to include your income, tax benefits and expenses. You will be asked to keep all relevant forms at hand here as well as you are asked about these quite specifically. As you will notice while filling the form, College Board provides certain tips on what to fill and how to fill it. These are really helpful to avoid confusion.
- The questions include any property, shares, or businesses that the student (you) own. They also include questions like how much is your current loan amount for education, how much you spent on medical bills that wasn’t covered by insurance, etc.
- As per our observations, including details like these can work both for and against you. If you do work and earn, it means that you are reliable financially as well as independent and dependable. However, it will also reduce the chances of you getting scholarships or funding as they realize that you can earn and pay for yourself. Therefore, consider this section very carefully.
6. The ‘Supplemental Questions’ section consists of any college specific questions that need to be answered based on the colleges you have selected.
After you have answered all questions in a section, you will notice that a green tick mark appears before the section name on the left side navigation panel. Make sure you check that all sections are completed and have this tick mark before submitting your form.
If your country's tax year follows the calendar year (January 1 - December 31), follow the instructions as given throughout the application to answer questions about the base financial aid year (2016). If your country's tax year does not follow the calendar year, determine the appropriate base tax year by identifying the last tax year that ended or will end before April 1, 2017. This will be the tax year that you will use for all questions on the application that reference "2016." You'll then use the subsequent two years for questions about 2017 and 2018.
You will be asked questions about your household expenses. You should gather those records as well.
- your responses by choosing the application review. If any section is incomplete, you will be prompted to complete it during this final review process.
- a copy of your application for reference. It might be useful for you in the future.
- an initial application fees of $25. You can send your profile to one college and will need to pay $16 for additional reports.
Fee waivers are available for low-income students, and you will be notified if you qualify. As a general guideline, students are eligible for fee waivers if they come from a family whose annual parental income is approximately $45,000 dollars or less.Students who are orphans and wards of the court and under the age of 24 are automatically eligible for fee waivers.
You can always return to the application once you have submitted it if you wish to add other colleges or programs.
If your parents are divorced or separated, you may also require the CSS Profile from your noncustodial parent or the parent you did not reside with most of the time. Your noncustodial parent will need to create a College Board account and fill out their own CSS Profile application.
Remember, list all of your parents, including step-parents, on the CSS Profile application and indicate their relationship to you.
Multiple resources are available to assist you with completing your application.
If you are unsure of how to answer a question or need additional clarification, in-application or hover help is available simply by clicking within the question.
Reaching the customer support staff is also only a click away. At any time, you can click on contact us to reach customer support center to chat live, email, or speak to someone by phone.
Additional resources are also available on the CSS Profile online website. Here you’ll to find guides, a list of participating colleges, tutorials, and more.
I hope this article was helpful for you and gave you a clearer picture about the CSS profile and its application. If you have any queries, College Board has an excellent helpline service that you can use. You can call them or email them and they will help you with any query that you may have!