4 ways the CSS Profile differs from the FAFSA


Looking for free money for college? If so, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® (CSS PROFILE), or in some cases both. Why? These wonderful little forms are your ticket to receiving grants, scholarships, and other financial aid that can help you keep your student loan debt to a minimum. There are, however, some distinct differences between the forms. Not sure which one is right for you? Check out the four important ways the CSS PROFILE differs from the FAFSA.

1. Cost

FAFSA is always FREE. Never pay to complete this form. Period! The CSS PROFILE is $25 for the first college and $16 for each additional college.

2. Type of financial aid

The FAFSA is your ticket to FEDERAL financial aid, including Pell Grants and work-study opportunities. The CSS PROFILE determines your eligibility for NON-FEDERAL financial aid, such as scholarships and grants.

3. Enrollment date

The FAFSA opens on the day when most people are nursing a hangover: Jan. 1*. Students should file the CSS PROFILE at least two weeks prior to the first college or scholarship filing date they need to meet each year.

* Note: Beginning with the 2017-18 academic year, the FAFSA application will open on Oct. 1.

4. Where it’s accepted

Nearly every U.S. college and university uses the FAFSA. The CSS PROFILE is used primarily at private colleges, but a few public schools also require the form.

If you’re not sure which form your college requires, check out your school’s financial aid website or contact your financial aid office for assistance. Be sure to ask about filing deadlines, too. They differ at every school, and it would totally suck if you missed out on free money for college.

However you apply for financial aid, make sure to also do our Scholarship Match to find even more money for college.

Last day to enter is October 31st!
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