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CSS Profile vs. FAFSA: What You Need to Know

If you are applying for financial aid, you will probably have to fill out both the CSS Profile and the FAFSA. Both collect information about your financial situation to help determine your eligibility for financial aid, but there are some key differences when looking at the CSS Profile vs. FAFSA.

Any students looking to receive federal financial aid will have to fill out the FAFSA. Many schools also require the CSS Profile to determine eligibility for state and institutional aid. Here are the differences between the CSS Profile and the FAFSA. We’ll go over the differences in the information they collect, what they are used for, and how their results may differ.

Related: How to Apply for Student Loans: Federal and Private

What information do they collect?

The FAFSA asks for information on your household’s assets and income level. It also collects information about other dependents in the household and basic demographic information about you and your family. It uses this information to calculate your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC.

The CSS Profile collects similar information to the FAFSA, but its questions are more in-depth. If your family owns a business, you’ll have to submit financial documentation about the business. Other financial strains, such as medical expenses, are also taken into account.

See also: How to renew your FAFSA

What types of aid do they qualify you for?

The FAFSA is how all students apply for federal financial aid. This includes the Pell Grant, work study, and government loans. Schools that only require the FAFSA also use it to determine your eligibility for state and institutional need-based aid. 

In addition to the FAFSA, many schools and states require the CSS Profile. If your school or state is one of these, the CSS Profile will determine your eligibility for state and institutional aid. If your school requires the CSS Profile, make sure to fill out the FAFSA as well in order to qualify for federal aid.

Don’t miss: When is this year’s FAFSA deadline?

What is the cost?

The FAFSA is completely free, no matter how many schools you send it to. This means that you have nothing to lose by filling it out; anyone who could use help paying for college should submit a FAFSA to see what they qualify for. 

On the other hand, the CSS Profile costs $25 for the first school you send it to, and $16 for each additional school. If you are having trouble paying these fees, check out the fee waivers available through the College Board. Try not to let the cost deter you from submitting a CSS Profile! That $25 can earn you a huge amount in financial aid.

Related: How to add more schools to the FAFSA

Will they yield different results?

The CSS Profile and FAFSA typically end up with a similar picture of your household’s financial situation. However, there are a few situations where they might yield dramatically different results:

If your parents are divorced, the CSS Profile takes into account both of their incomes whereas the FAFSA only examines the finances of one parent. So, if your non-custodial parent makes more money than your custodial parent, you will probably receive more financial aid from schools that don’t require the CSS Profile.

If your parents own a business or their pay is structured unconventionally, the CSS Profile will likely get a more in-depth perspective on the situation. The FAFSA takes into account fewer types of assets than the CSS Profile.

Related: When is this year’s CSS Profile deadline?

Next steps for students

You can complete the FAFSA on the Federal Student Aid website, and you can complete the CSS Profile on the College Board website. 

Best of luck, and make sure to check out our guides on how to fill out the FAFSA and the CSS Profile!