Jill Haley: Two forms you need to file to get financial aid | TheUnion.com
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Jill Haley: Two forms you need to file to get financial aid

Most families with high school students are aware that they need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to get grant money to attend college. That application opened on Oct. 1 and should be filed by families if their student will attend college next year or are currently attending college.

The FAFSA calculates a family’s eligibility for federal aid like the Pell Grant and state aid like the Cal Grant. It can also determine your eligibility for federal loans, and the work-study program.

But what many families do not know is that there is another application called the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile that is required by over 400 colleges to qualify for non-government, scholarship aid. The most selective colleges, including the Ivy League, require the CSS Profile.

What exactly is the CSS Profile? The CSS Profile is an application developed by the company that administers the SAT, College Board, and asks specific information about a family’s financial situation. It is primarily used by private colleges and can be individualized to fit each college’s requirements.

The CSS Profile is submitted in addition to the FAFSA, and not instead of. To check whether a college you are applying to requires the CSS Profile, check the College Board website.

What’s the difference in between the FAFSA and the CSS Profile? Well to begin with, the CSS Profile is not free. Submitting your CSS Profile to your first college costs $25. Additional colleges are $16 each.

The CSS Profile will most likely ask more detailed questions regarding finances than the FAFSA. The FAFSA primarily asks for information about your family’s assets and income. The CSS Profile will want information about your family’s assets and income, but may also inquire about home equity, business income and other factors such as child care and medical expenses that affect your finances.

Probably the most significant difference is that if the parents are divorced, FAFSA requires the financial information from only one parent. In many cases, the CSS Profile asks for information from both parents, even if the dependent child does not live or even visit that parent.

Public universities such as The University of California do not require the CSS Profile.

Neither do the California State Universities or community colleges in California.

Once submitted, the information on the CSS Profile is analyzed and sent to college financial aid offices to determine financial aid awards. Students will be notified of their awards soon after they receive notice of their college acceptance.

The CSS Profile is available to file now if your child will attend college during 2021-22 school year. It can be submitted at any time, but should be filed by the priority deadline of the college.

The CSS Profile is submitted in addition to the FAFSA, and not instead of. To check whether a college you are applying to requires the CSS Profile, check the College Board website.

Both the FAFSA and the CSS profile must be filed once a year while a student is in college. For most parents, the forms are not complicated and the benefits are definitely worth the effort. For more information on filing the FAFSA go to studentaid.gov. For the CSS Profile, reference cssprofile.collegeboard.org . Good luck.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.


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