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CSS Profile and Other Aid Applications

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Think that applying for financial aid begins and ends with the FAFSA? Not so fast! Some colleges dig deeper into your finances.

Some colleges use additional aid applications and forms to gather all the information they use to calculate your financial need.

When Colleges Want More Information Than the FAFSA Provides

Most colleges use only information from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine a family's need for financial aid, whether that aid comes from the government or from the college's own resources. Other colleges, when determining a family's need for aid from its own funds, use an additional application. Some use their own aid applications, but most use the CSS/Financial Aid Profile, which is administered by the College Board.

The Profile Digs Deeper Than the FAFSA

Compared to the FAFSA, the Profile asks for more information about expenses, income, and assets. Colleges can add or subtract questions, so the Profile form may differ from college to college. Below are the components of the Profile.

  • The Profile application. The Profile asks about assets and income that could be used to pay for college (reducing your need for financial aid). These may include the value of the parents' home, trust funds for the student and siblings, and the value of a family business. On the other hand, it may also ask about special circumstances that reduce a family's ability to pay for college (increasing your financial need). These include medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance, and the tuition your parents paid for younger dependents' education.
  • The Noncustodial Parent's Profile. Some colleges require financial information from a divorced or separated parent with whom the student does not live (also called the "noncustodial parent"). Colleges will ask this parent to complete a two-page form and supply relevant tax returns. Each college has its own policy about waiving the noncustodial parent contribution. Most are quite strict.
  • The Business/Farm Supplement. This form asks about current and long-term profits or losses from businesses or farms owned by the student or parents.

The cost to file the CSS Profile and any accompanying forms is $25 for the initial college plus $16 for each additional college or scholarship program selected. (Fee waivers are available.) For more information, visit the College Board.

Other Financial Aid Forms and Applications

Financial aid forms from the college. Colleges have other forms you may need to complete before you get your aid. For example, separate financial aid applications for out-of-state and international students are common, and so are forms for documenting your special financial circumstances or state residency.

Tax returns and W-2 forms. You are not required to send tax forms with the FAFSA or Profile. However, some colleges may request these forms later.

State financial aid paperwork. Some states have separate aid applications or supplemental forms. In California, for instance, candidates for Cal Grants must return GPA verification forms.

College scholarship applications. Some colleges consider every student for scholarships based on the admissions application. Others have separate scholarship applications. The financial aid section of the college's website should have the details.

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