College Planning

Parents Guide to CSS Profile

The CSS Profile is an online application that students submit to apply for financial aid from colleges and scholarship programs. It’s different from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ®) that students use to apply for financial aid from the federal government.

Your child should submit both the CSS Profile and FAFSA to maximize the amount of financial aid they could get.


Fast Facts


Why Submit the CSS Profile?

Each year, CSS Profile connects thousands of students to more than $9 billion of financial aid. If your child wants an opportunity to get some of that money to help pay for college, they’ll need to submit the CSS Profile.

  • Some colleges require students to use the CSS Profile to apply for nonfederal aid.
  • The CSS Profile application asks for details about your financial situation that may increase the aid your child gets.
  • If your child doesn’t submit the CSS Profile, they’re forfeiting access to billions of dollars in aid.

Read More About It
CSS Profile Overview (video)
Institutions and Programs That Use CSS Profile


How to Fill Out the CSS Profile

The entire CSS Profile application process happens online. Your child will need a free College Board account to access the application; if they already have an account, they don’t need to create a new one. You can also create a student account under your own name if you’re going to fill out the application without your child.

Your child will need to provide information about your employment, family income, and other details about your family’s financial situation. You may want to sit with your child as they fill out the application because they may need your help answering the questions.

You’ll need your tax return from the past two years, bank statements, W-2 forms, and other financial documents on hand before you start the application.

The process for creating a CSS Profile is different for parents who are divorced, seperate or noncustodial. To learn more, visit our tutorial for noncustodial parents

Read More About It
Creating a CSS Profile Account for Parent Use
Create a College Board Account


When to Submit the CSS Profile

Each college sets its own CSS Profile submission deadlines. Sometimes they have more than one deadline. It’s a good idea to submit the application as early as possible, beginning October 1, to give your child the best chance at getting the most financial aid.

The FAFSA application for federal student aid is also available. It is being simplified, so it won’t be open until December of 2023 rather than October. The CSS Profile asks for more information about your financial situation than the FAFSA does, but some of the questions are the same. To make sure your answers are consistent across both applications, you may want to fill them out at the same time.