The CSS PROFILE is required by many private colleges and universities to determine your eligibility for non-governmental financial aid, such as the institution’s own grants, loans and scholarships. The College Board administers the PROFILE form.
The biggest difference between the CSS PROFILE and the FAFSA are:
Submission dates: The CSS PROFILE can be submitted in the fall; FAFSA cannot be submitted before January 1.
Specific questions: The CSS PROFILE contains questions specific to the school or program to which you’re applying. FAFSA has one set of standard questions.
Different methodology: The CSS PROFILE determines your financial need differently than the FAFSA, taking into account such factors as whether your family owns a home. In general, the CSS PROFILE asks for more detailed financial information than the FAFSA.
Minimum student contribution: The CSS PROFILE requires this; the FAFSA doesn’t.
Cost: CSS PROFILE charges a registration fee plus a fee for each school or scholarship program selected; the FAFSA is free.