The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE is the College Board’s financial aid application that 229 mostly private colleges and universities use for their undergraduate admissions. The following state institutions also require families to submit the PROFILE:
- College of William and Mary
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Here is the list of all the schools and scholarship programs that require a PROFILE submission:
PROFILE vs. FAFSA
Many families wonder why they have to go through the hassle of completing the PROFILE when they’ve already submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s a good question and here is the answer:
All PROFILE schools use the FAFSA to determine which of their applicants will qualify for federal and/or state financial aid.
Most public and private colleges and universities also rely upon the FAFSA to determine who is eligible for their own need-based financial aid. The PROFILE schools, however, want to dig deeper than the FAFSA allows when assessing who qualifies for money from their own financial-aid kitties. These schools insist on a more thorough assessment of the financial wherewithal of their applicants.
The FAFSA, for instance, doesn’t ask applicants if they own a primary home. The PROFILE does. The FAFSA doesn’t care about assets in a family business that employs less than 100 full-time employees. The PROFILE does. The FAFSA doesn’t inquire about assets and income from the noncustodial parent in cases of divorce and separation, but the PROFILE schools often do.
Customizing the PROFILE
Schools that use the PROFILE can customize this aid application in endless ways. In fact, the schools can choose from hundreds of supplemental questions and how they treat the answers can differ significantly. For instance, some schools consider home equity, others don’t while still others link home equity to income. The latter policy is supposed to help families who are house rich and cash poor.
What can be irritating about the PROFILE is that some of its formula is secret. The College Board doesn’t feel compelled to share its entire formula.
The College Board, however, releases a lengthy publication every year that tries to anticipate many questions that parents would have about the application. I would urge you to take a look at this 55-page PDF, which is the most recent one available:
Because of many optional PROFILE questions, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) that this application generates for individual schools can vary significantly for a family. A family’s EFC alerts a school’s financial aid office to how much financial assistance a student needs.
Important: Because the PROFILE aid results can be different, it’s essential that parents use net price calculators to identify whether schools may be good financial fits or not.
You will learn more about how the PROFILE and FAFSA treat assets for financial-aid purposes in the lesson entitled, Investments and Financial Aid.
PROFILE Nuts & Bolts
Just like the FAFSA, the PROFILE’s release date for the 2018-2019 school year will be October 1, 2017.
Just like the FAFSA, the PROFILE now uses two-year-old IRS tax returns rather than the most current tax returns. Read the FAFSA Basics lesson for more information on this big development.
Important: Ask the schools where your child is applying when their financial aid deadlines are because you absolutely don’t want to miss a deadline. You may forfeit your chances for financial aid if you do so. Failing to file your aid applications on time can jeopardize your financial aid award.
You will need to register on the College Board website to access and complete the application. Your child already has an account if he or she has taken the SAT.
The College Board estimates that it will take between 45 minutes and two hours to complete the PROFILE.
Before beginning, you should download and use the pre-application worksheet and instructions.
You can also print out your actual aid application after you have registered for the PROFILE and answered some preliminary questions including the schools that your child intends to apply to. By doing so, the PROFILE can load the correct questions onto your customized application.
Here are the documents you will need to complete the PROFILE for the 2018-2019 school year:
- 2016 federal income tax return(s)
- W-2 forms and other records of money earned in 2016
- Records of untaxed income and benefits for 2016
- Current bank statements
- Current mortgage information
- Records of savings, stocks, bonds, trusts, and other investments
- The noncustodial parent’s email address, if applicable
Getting Help With the PROFILE
If you need clarification on application questions there are several ways to find help within the application itself or from the College Board.
For specific application questions use the question-mark help icon or use the help code next to the question itself. You can also use a search help feature that’s located at the top part of the screen. In addition, you can find answers from the PROFILE Application Help Desk.
If you require further assistance, here is how you can contact the College Board’s customer service department:
While the FAFSA is free, the PROFILE costs $25 for the initial application and college report and all additional reports are $16 each.
The College Board grants fee waivers automatically based on information that the family includes on the PROFILE. The waiver covers the application fee and the reporting fees for up to eight colleges or scholarship programs.
Applicants who are orphans or wards of the court under the age of 24 are automatically eligible for fee waivers. Eligibility for a family of three is usually household income of $35,000 or less and $27,000 or less for a two-person household. For a four-person household, a family typically won’t be eligible for the fee waiver if assets exceeds $30,000 and home equity exceeds $100,000.