The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (often written as CSS PROFILE), short for the College Scholarship Service Profile, is an application distributed by the College Board in the United States allowing college students to apply for financial aid. It is primarily designed to give private member institutions of the College Board a closer look into the finances of a student and family. It is much more detailed than the FAFSA.
The CSS Profile asks questions about the financial status of the student and the student's parents. The information the student gives in the CSS Profile is then sent to colleges or universities that the student specifies.
Along with the FAFSA, the CSS Profile is the most common financial aid application that students in the United States fill out.
Each CSS Profile costs a fee, varying from year to year.
Generally, colleges with early acceptance programs (student receives admission decision before the new year) use the CSS PROFILE to make preliminary financial aid decisions because the FAFSA is not available until after January 1. Then after student completes the FAFSA (the official financial aid application) colleges may then make adjustments to their financial aid awards if necessary.
For the 2010-11 form the application fee was $9.00 and $16.00 per college submitted. Harvard, NYU, and most other prestigious schools require the CSS Profile. Princeton University is a notable exception because it does not require a CSS Profile but instead has its own free financial aid application form. Students may, however, submit a CSS Profile to Princeton and later automatically transmit that information onto Princeton's form.