Financial Aid Applications: FAFSA and CSS Profile

What you need to know about the new FAFSA Form and the CSS Profile

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile are the cornerstones of what concerns higher education financing in the United States. Serving as essential gateways to financial assistance for prospective college students, these applications play distinct roles in the financial aid ecosystem. 

The FAFSA, a federal initiative overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, is a universally recognized form determining eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. In contrast, the CSS Profile, managed by the College Board, is often required by private colleges and universities to assess a student’s eligibility for institutional aid. 

While the FAFSA is a prerequisite for federal aid, the CSS Profile delves deeper into a family’s financial intricacies, allowing institutions to craft personalized financial aid packages. Together, these applications form a comprehensive approach to understanding and addressing the diverse financial needs of aspiring college students across the United States. Click here for a list of colleges that use the CSS profile.

Who is eligible to apply for the FAFSA and CSS Profile?

Both applications aim to assess financial need, but who can apply for it is distinctly different.

The FAFSA, a fundamental requirement for federal aid programs, considers various factors such as income, family size, and dependency status. U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status is typically a prerequisite for federal aid eligibility through the FAFSA. Additionally, enrollment in an accredited higher education institution is necessary. 

On the other hand, the CSS Profile, commonly utilized by private colleges and universities, often demands a more comprehensive view of a family’s financial situation. It may look at home equity, medical expenses, and other assets not covered by the FAFSA. Contrary to the FAFSA, students who are not U.S. citizens might also qualify for the CSS profile, with some institutions considering international students for institutional aid. 

Be Aware of Deadlines!

Both applications operate on distinct timelines, and missing deadlines can have profound consequences for prospective students. The FAFSA follows a federal schedule, with the application window typically opening on October 1st each year. The year 2023 is an exception with the FAFSA 2024-25 expected to open for applications on December 31, 2023. 

Once open, students are advised to submit their FAFSA as early as possible to maximize their eligibility for certain types of aid, as some programs operate on a first-come, first-served basis. You can find specific state deadlines here.

In contrast, the CSS Profile, commonly required by private institutions, may have varying deadlines, often aligning with individual college admissions timelines. It is paramount for applicants to carefully review and adhere to each institution’s specific requirements and deadlines, recognizing that a delayed submission could compromise access to institutional aid. 

Often an application is considered incomplete until the CSS profile has been submitted, too. This is especially important when trying to meet early application deadlines like Early Action and Early Decision. 

10 FACTS about the NEW 2024-2025 FAFSA 

  1. The 2024-2025 FAFSA release date is expected to be Dec 31, 2023. The release date has been delayed for this year only because of the extensive changes to improve the FAFSA. Next year’s FAFSA will open on the usual date, October 1st.
  1. FSA ID – Each person, who is required to submit information on a student’s FAFSA will need to have their own FSA ID, including parents, who don’t have a social security number (SSN). Create FSA ID here.
  1. Parents without an SSN will be able to create an FSA ID.
  1. The number of questions will be much fewer than in the previous FAFSA. The maximum will be 49 questions.
  1.  Direct Data Exchange – Every contributor on the FAFSA will need to consent to the direct data exchange (DDX), a process that allows the IRS to share federal tax information with the Department of Education and the colleges listed on the FAFSA.
  1. Many questions will be auto-filled by FSA ID information and the IRS-DDX
  1. No more questions regarding Selective Service of Drug Conviction
  1. The term EFC (Expected Family Contribution) will be replaced by the SAI (Student Aid Index). Check out the Student Aid Estimator here.
  1. The list of colleges the FAFSA can be sent to is increasing from 10 to 20 colleges.
  1. College students who have applied to the FAFSA before will use the same FSA ID that they used in previous years.


Check out our YouTube Channel: Quick Facts about the new FAFSA & the CSS Profile


Discuss your college options with us. Set up a 20-minute Discovery Call !


Make sure to sign up for our mailing list and receive updates, timely articles, and special offers for our college application programs.

* indicates required