College Planning

What's the Difference Between CSS Profile and FAFSA?


What is CSS Profile?

CSS Profile is an online application service used by over 400 colleges, universities, and scholarship programs to award more than $9 billion in grants.

For information on how to complete the CSS Profile, visit this resource. It tells you the steps a student must take to complete their application.


What is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is a form you need to fill out to receive any financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. Submitting the FAFSA is the most important step you can take if you’re looking for financial aid.

To learn who qualifies and how to fill out the FAFSA, visit our detailed post.


What’s the difference between CSS Profile and the FAFSA?


This table shows you how the two forms of financial aid differ.


CSS Profile


Schools Accepted

Over 400 college, universities, and scholarship programs

Any college or university that grants federal financial aid


Free for domestic undergraduates with family income up to$100,000. Otherwise, the cost to submit is $25 for first application, $16 for each subsequent application.


Application Renewal



Type of aid


Federal, and sometimes state and institutional

Administrator of application

College Board

U.S. Department of Education

How to apply


Online, mobile, or by mail

To learn more about the CSS Profile, visit:

To learn more about the FAFSA, visit: