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The CSS Profile is one of those financial forms that you probably haven’t heard of or don’t know too much about. Yet it is required by lots of schools and if you are applying EA/ED you may be filling out sooner than you expected. Here is a breakdown of all of the major information you need to know about it.

 What is it?

The CSS Profile (officially known as the CSS/Financial Aid Profile) is a financial document organized by the CollegeBoard which is essentially a more detailed version of FAFSA that is also available earlier that can also include financial questions for individual schools.

Who requires it?

Most selective private colleges/universities require the CSS profile but various other schools and scholarships will also require it. You can go on the financial aid portion of a college’s website to see whether or not they require it.

When is it due?

This will vary depending on the school. That being said in general it is due around when the financial aid deadlines for that school are. To be on the safe side I recommended submitting it as close to the time that you submit your actual application.

How long does it take to fill out?

If you are filling it out after the FAFSA (which would only be true of RD applicants) it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes since you already have all necessary information available. However if this is your first time filling out a college related financial aid document it could take upwards of an hour if you are not used to reading tax documents and/or your family needs to look up various numbers.

What information/documents do you need?

You will want to have on hand your parent/s and/or guardian/s most recent tax documents. Meaning you will want to have their 2013 1040 and W2. I also recommend having the people who these documents belong to around as you fill out the CSS so that you can easily ask them questions if necessary.

What about noncustodial parents?

Noncustodial parents can be tricky with the CSS Profile. Assuming you have a noncustodial parent/s you will be asked to fill out an additional section with your noncustodial parent’s financial information. This means that if you have a noncustodial parent that you have contact with you will want to set aside some time with them to fill out the section.

What if I don’t have any contact with my noncustodial parent/s?

If this is the case you should leave the portion blank and apply for a noncustodial waiver for each school you are applying to. You apply for noncustodial waivers through colleges financial aid department.

What is IDOC?

IDOC is part of the CSS Profile and allows you to send copies of all tax related documents to colleges without having to physically mail them to each. To do this you will put all of the documents in an envelope (don’t worry the CollegeBoard will give you a checklist) and mail it to the CollegeBoard who will then send it to the schools who want copies of such documents.

How much does it cost to send the CSS Profile?

The first CSS report you send costs $25, all additional reports cost $16 each.

Wait, it costs money to try and get financial aid! Are there fee waivers available?

Sadly yes. The cost is essentially a processing fee. If you qualify the CollegeBoard will automatically give you eight CSS fee waivers after you complete the CSS Profile. If you don’t qualify or need additional fee waivers you should contact the colleges you are applying to directly and see if they have fee waivers available. Know that schools rarely have fee waivers that they can give to applicants to but it is worth checking.



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the author

Samantha Linder is a sophomore at Smith College where she is double majoring in neuroscience and art history. Samantha's favorite words include hippocampus, logorrhea, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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