CSS Profile – What is it

CSS Profile Financial Aid Form

In addition, many private colleges also require completion of the CSS/Financial Aid Profile (or a school-specific questionnaire).   This is far more comprehensive form compared to the FAFSA form and asks for a wide range of family assets including family farms, businesses and home equity. If you report a low income on your financial aid forms but live in a 1.5 million dollar house, private institutions are going to want to know about that and why before they begin to distribute financial aid.  The CSS Profile calculation also assumes the student will work part time to pay for college expenses.  The formula used is known as Institutional Methodology (IM).  The CSS Profile is administered by the College Board.  It is rare that the EFC using the Federal Methodology will be the same as the EFC using IM.

Schools that currently require the CSS Profile can be found here

Each year more information is requested, and questions are added or changed.  Some colleges ask how many cars you own, including make, model and year.  Some ask about trusts, something that was not required to be disclosed until recently.  The rules have recently changed regarding divorced parents; most colleges now require disclosure by both parents, custodial and non-custodial.


What is the Expected Family Contribution

EFC – Expected Family Contribution

What is the EFC or Expected Family Contribution in the Financial Aid Process

FAFSA Changes

Beginning in the fall of 2016, FAFSA will be available starting on October 1st (it was normally January 1st). For the next two years, FAFSA aid will be based on tax year 2015 income for 2 years, 2016-17 and 2017-18. This is known as the prior prior phenomena. Asset protection allowance is being reduced to $6,300 from $28,200 in fiscal year 2016. Translated in English, you will have more of your assets evaluated by FAFSA.

Federal financial aid is awarded on the basis of financial need. This is determined by the school you would like to attend or are applying to attend and is based on the information you provided in the FAFSA form

How much you aid you qualify for is determined like so.

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Your Financial Need

Cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, books, room and board, and transportation.

Expected Family Contribution is the amount of money you and your family are expected to and can contribute to your education. Factors include the family’s size, income, assets, expenses, and the number of family members enrolled in college or trade schools. When you apply for financial aid through the FAFSA, the information you report is plugged into a formula that calculates your Expected Family Contribution.

You can access the FAFSA form at Fafsa.ed.gov

You can estimate your EFC at Finaid.org

The financial aid office at the school you wish to attend will look at your financial need, factor in any other types of scholarships or grants you received or expect to receive, and prepare a financial package for you. The school will notify you as to how much aid you have qualified for and send you an award letter. Usually schools will offer as much aid to you as they can the first time, so calling and asking for more after the fact may be a dead end.


Types of Financial Aid

Types of Financial Aid Programs

What are the different kinds of financial aid programs I can apply for


Stafford Loans are low Interest loans funded by the federal government to finance education. These loans do not require credit checks or collateral. Student loans also provide a variety of deferment options and extended repayment terms.

The federal loan for students is called the Stafford Loan and has two variations:

  • Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and savings & loan associations. These loans are guaranteed against default by the federal government.
  • Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP) loans, administered by “Direct Lending Schools”, are provided by the US government directly to students and their parents.

All Stafford Loans are either subsidized (the government pays the interest while you’re in school) or unsubsidized (you pay all the interest, although you can have the payments deferred until after graduation). To receive a subsidized Stafford Loan, you must be able to demonstrate financial need.

With the unsubsidized Stafford loan, you can defer the payments until after graduation by capitalizing the interest. This adds the interest payments to the loan balance, increasing the size and cost of the loan. All students, regardless of need, are eligible for the unsubsidized Stafford Loan.

Stafford Loans allow dependent undergraduates to borrow up to $5,500 their freshman year, $6,500 their sophomore year and $7,500 for each remaining year (independent students can borrow an additional un-subsidized $9,500-$10,500 the first two years and $12,500 the remaining years).

Graduate students can borrow $20,500 per year.

The current interest rate is 4.529% for undergrads. (as of November 2019)


PLUS loans are federal loans that students can use to help pay for college.

Eligibility is based on meeting requirements for federal student aid, not having an adverse credit history and being enrolled at an eligible college.

To apply, borrowers must fill out the FAFSA form (Free application for federal student aid). Once you have done this, your college should provide you instructions about the PLUS loan application process.

You can borrow up to the cost of attendance as determined by the college you are attending.

The current interest rate for PLUS loans is 7.08% as of November 6th, 2019. The rate is fixed for the life of the loan.


Perkins loans were low-interest loans made by the Federal Government for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.

Perkins loans were run by the school you attend and your payments are made to the lender (the school).

In September of 2017, the Federal Government eliminated Perkins Loans.


Federal Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students pursuing a bachelor’s or a professional degree and is offered at over 5,400 institutions.

A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid.

Qualifying individuals an receive up to $6,195 good until June 30th 2020 per year depending on your need, your cost of attendance, and if you are enrolled full time or part time.

In order to be considered for aid you must fill out the FAFSA form.


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Financial Aid Definitions

Financial Aid Definitions for college applications

Learn common financial aid definitions when applying for aid at colleges.

CSS Profile – Stands for College Scholarship Service Profile. This is a financial aid form run by the college board that is used at 600+ private colleges. The CSS Profile form is much more invasive than the FAFSA form and asks for more specific financial data such as home value and retirement plan contributions. Unlike the FAFSA that only seeks financial information from the custodial parent, the CSS form asks for financial information from both parents, regardless of marital status.

Grants — a type of financial aid award that does not have to be repaid.

Scholarships — a financial aid award that does not have to be repaid. Scholarships are generally made based on an applicant meeting certain eligibility criteria and can be for athletic, academic or even some other talent such as music, art, or dance.

Work Study (aka) Federal Work Study — Federally funded program that allows colleges and universities to create campus based employment programs for financial aid recipients.

Merit Aid – Merit aid is a financial reward given to a student from a college based on their academic record and/or some other unique talent that the student possess (perhaps you are a classical pianist that plays all over the world at age 17). Merit aid is used by colleges as an incentive to get those students to enroll in their college. Merit aid does not have to be paid back.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — the official application form for all federal financial aid programs.

Federal Pell Grant — a need based financial aid program funded by the federal government. Students with an EFC less than $x are eligible for the Pell Grant. The amount of the award is based on the student’s enrollment level (full time, three-quarter time, etc.) and the cost of attendance.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) — a need based financial aid program funded by the federal government. Colleges receive an annual allocation of SEOG and, within certain guidelines, develop an awarding policy for this fund.

Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) — The collective name for the Federal Stafford and PLUS loan programs. FFELP loans are funded by private lenders.

Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP) — The program name for loans that are both guaranteed and funded by the federal government.  If your school is a “Direct Lending School”, your Stafford Loan is administered by the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP). Funds for “direct loans” are provided by the US government directly to students and their parents through their schools. Applications can be obtained from your school.  Banks and guarantee agencies are not involved in the process.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) — the amount that a student and family can be expected to contribute towards educational expenses over a year’s time. The EFC is calculated when the student submits a financial aid application.

Federal Methodology Expected Family Contribution (FM EFC) — The specific EFC calculated by the federal government based on information submitted on the FAFSA. The FM EFC calculation is set each year by the U.S. Department of Education and determines eligibility for federal aid programs.

Institutional Methodology Expected Family Contribution (IM EFC) — a variation of the FM EFC calculated by a college or university. This EFC calculation can incorporate different items than the FM EFC calculation and is used by colleges to allocate institutionally sponsored aid programs.

Financial need — the difference between a student’s Cost of Attendance and Expected Family Contribution. It is the amount of financial aid the student “needs” to afford attendance at a particular college.

Cost of Attendance — the total of all costs a financial aid office estimates students will incur during attendance at the college or university

Award Letter — A notice from a financial aid office to a financial aid applicant that specifies the financial aid programs and dollar amount of a each financial aid award.

Cost Less Aid Amount — The difference between the total cost of education and the financial aid package offered to you by the school, including scholarships, grants, work-study and Stafford Loans.  This amount is what you are expected to pay out of pocket or through supplemental loan programs.

Federal Stafford Loan — a federally guaranteed loan program that allows students to borrow funds from lenders. Stafford loans allow the student to defer payments while he/she is in school. The interest rate for new Stafford Loans is variable but will not exceed 8.25%.

Subsidized Stafford Loan — this is a need-based student loan. Interest that accrues on Subsidized Stafford loans while the student is in school (at least half time) is paid by the federal government on the student’s behalf.

Unsubsidized Stafford Loan — the Unsubsidized Stafford Loan is a non-need based loan program, so students with no financial need can even qualify for this aid program. Interest that accrues on Unsubsidized loans must be paid by the borrower, even while he/she is in school. The borrower may make periodic payments (monthly or quarterly, depending on the lender’s policy) or allow the interest to accrue throughout enrollment and have the interest “capitalized” (added to the loan’s principle balance). While capitalization eliminates having to make payments while in school but increases the total cost of a loan.

Federal PLUS Loan — a federally guaranteed loan program that allows parents to borrow funds to help pay educational expenses. The program does require the borrower to pass a simple credit check. The loan’s interest rate is variable, but new loans have a maximum interest rate of 9%.

Promissory Note — legal document that specifies the terms and conditions of a loan.

Deferment — A temporary period during which a borrower is not required to make payments.  Deferments are more common in Federal loan programs rather than alternative loans. For Subsidized Stafford Loan borrowers (and Perkins Loan borrowers), many deferments are subsidized, meaning the interest that accrues on the loan during the deferment is paid by the federal government. Some deferments are unsubsidized, meaning the interest that accrues must be paid by the borrower. (Resources on the web from the department)

Origination fee — A fee the borrower pays to the lender for originating a student loan.  Origination fees are most often associated with Federal Stafford, PLUS and Federal Direct Student loans.  The maximum origination fee for these federal loans is 3% of the loan’s principal balance.

Debt to Income Ratio — The percentage of a loan applicant’s (monthly) income that is used to meet debt obligations.  Many alternative loan programs use this calculation to determine an applicant’s eligibility for a loan program.

Standard Repayment — A repayment alternative in which a borrower pays a set amount monthly over the entire repayment term.  Also called “Simple Repayment”.

Income Sensitive Repayment — This repayment alternative is available to some federal loan borrowers (check with your lender or servicer to learn if your loans qualify for this alternative).  Income sensitive repayments bases the monthly payment on the borrower’s income in relation to total federal loan indebtedness. Under this option, monthly payments can drop to as low as the amount of interest that accrues on the loan’s principal balance.  Borrowers must apply for this option annually and must provide documentation of income – usually in the form of a federal tax return.

Extended Repayment — a new option to recent federal loan borrowers.  This option allows borrowers with high balances (greater than $25,000 in federal loans) to extend the repayment term from its standard 10 year term to 25 or 30 years.  While extending the repayment term reduces the loan’s monthly payment, it also increases the total amount of interest paid on the loan.

Graduated Repayment — This option is available for federal loans, and even some alternative loan providers offer graduated repayment. Under graduated repayment, payments are low (usually just enough to cover the loan’s accruing interest) when the borrower first enters repayment.  Periodically, the payments increase to pay off the loan in the standard 10 year repayment term. The idea of graduated repayment is to have low payments while a borrower is first entering the working world.  Then, as income increases, the student loan payments also increase.


Merit aid vs. Athletic Scholarship Money

Merit aid vs. Athletic scholarship money

What is the difference between Merit Aid and Athletic Scholarship money

Will pursuing Merit aid be more realistic than an athletic scholarship?

This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many factors that go into a high school athlete receiving athletic scholarship money or Merit aid.

Merit aid is a financial reward given to a student from a college based on their academic record and/or some other unique talent that the student possess (perhaps you are a classical pianist that plays all over the world at age 17). Merit aid is used by colleges as an incentive to get those students to enroll in their college. There are many reasons Merit aid is used. The school might want to up its academic profile by luring stronger academic students. The school might be trying to attract students from a particular State or region of the country to increase its visibility. Or the school might want that classic pianist because it’s good PR for the school!

Let’s get a few things out of the way about Merit money before we discuss athletic scholarships.

In most cases, you do not “apply” for Merit aid or fill out an application. It is usually offered to a student based on their exceptional academic record. There are, however, some schools that have a separate application for Merit aid so you need to check with each individual school you are interested in or applying to.

In most cases, you do not need to fill out any financial aid forms (FAFSA or CSS Profile) to receive Merit Aid. However, some colleges require the FAFSA to be filled out if you are receiving Merit aid and often those are public colleges. There are some private colleges that require financial aid forms to be filled out but many do not. Again, you need to check with each individual college as to their requirements for Merit aid.

Under no circumstance will your athletic skill will be used in the evaluation process for Merit aid. Imagine if colleges started doling out financial aid to athletes because they were good athletes. There would be complete chaos in college sports, or more than there is now. A college and college coach were just placed on probation after the coach was discovered sending emails to recruits saying their Merit aid would be increased upon his written recommendation to the school.

The last trick to Merit aid is that you usually have to apply to a college where you will be unique in some capacity. If you are seeking Merit aid, applying to a local college that gets 50 applications from your high school each year and 15,000 other applications will not be a path to success to receiving Merit Aid. There is on incentive for that school to give Merit aid to a local student who has the same grades as 10,000 other applicants who live nearby. If, however, you can find a school in another part of the region or country that is underserved in the number of applications they get and is trying to attract a student(s) from your region of the country, that will be a better path to potentially receiving Merit aid.

So let’s talk about athletic scholarships. In order to receive an athletic scholarship, you need to be really good at your sport, find a way to display your skills to a college coach, find a coach that has a need for your position (yes, coaches recruit on need), and play a sport that has athletic scholarship money to offer. There is a common misconception that there are athletic scholarships at every school and it’s simply not true. D1 football, D1 men’s basketball and D1 women’s basketball are the only 3 fully funded sports in the country. What does fully funded mean? It means at the D1 level these 3 sports will offer the maximum amount of athletic scholarships that the NCAA say sit can, which is 85 for football, 13 for men’s basketball and 15 for women’s basketball. Every team in the country for these three sports will have those scholarships available.

So are there athletic scholarships in other sports?

Yes, but they are based on individual schools and programs. Schools with more money that want to be competitive in all sports will offer more athletic scholarships in all sports and schools with less money will not. When we get down to sports that do not generate revenue through attendance, the money for athletic scholarships starts to shrink. When this happens, you have many D1 programs with one or two athletic scholarships per team for the coach to divide up between maybe 8 or 10 players or maybe 30 players depending on the sport. A division 1 baseball school is allowed to offer 11.78 athletic scholarships for the entire team. Even if a coach had 11.78 athletic scholarships available, the coach will have a roster of 30+ players. It’s unlikely that any player will receive a full athletic scholarship and more unlikely that the 300+ Division 1 baseball programs throughout the country have 11.78 baseball scholarships to offer.

At the D2 level there will be even less athletic scholarships and at the D3 level there will be NO athletic scholarships as they are not offered at that level.

So despite the money you have invested in your high school athletic career, there simply is not that much athletic scholarship money to go around at the college level, and most of the money available is divided up among many players on the roster in the form of partial athletic scholarships. If you are evaluating private colleges that cost $60,000 to attend, and you are lucky enough to be offered a quarter athletic scholarships, you still need to find $45,000 to pay for college.

So what’s the right answer?

It’s complicated. We believe the best path to success in the college selection and athletic recruiting process is to be the very best academic student you can be, the very best athlete you can be and then try to find colleges where those attributes will be a better fit. If you are able to find colleges off the beaten path that are trying to attract successful academic students and college coaches that are trying to attract good athletes from your region (yes coaches like to recruit in new or different regions), then you will increase your chances of receiving Merit aid and you will potentially increase your chances of playing meaningful minutes as a college athlete. Not every college coach has 300 high school athletes they are evaluating and not every college coach has 300 high school athletes contacting them for recruitment.

One extra thing to consider is this. Any athletic aid you receive will be tied to participating in your sport. If you rely on that aid to pay for school, you must keep playing your sport as long as you attend that school. If you receive Merit aid, it is only tied to you maintaining certain grades. If you no longer wish to be a college athlete your second, third, or fourth year of college and want to “retire” from the team, any Merit aid you have will not be affected in any way. But, if you quit playing your sport because you want to, any athletic aid you receive will be gone. Something to think about!


Financial aid process for high school athletes

Financial aid process for high school athletes

Many families send out their financial aid forms, sit back and wait for a great financial aid package to come. Others are so afraid of the process or think they will not qualify for financial aid that they don’t even try. Neither is a recipe for success. If your family has never been through the process, it can be daunting.  It would be terrific if every college required the exact same information at exactly the same time.  But there is no single road map to follow – each school sets their own deadlines, requests different information and may ask for that information in a range of formats.

In order to succeed, you must complete a series of steps in the correct order to maximize your financial aid and scholarship potential. Miss one or two steps, fail to understand how the entire process works or make a mistake and you may get less financial aid.

Financial Aid Interview with a Division 1 College

Learn more about the financial aid process for high school athletes from our interview with a Division 1 college. Financial Aid Interview


The CSS Profile financial aid form is used at over 250+ private colleges (and a few public colleges) to award financial aid to applicants. CSS Profile Form


Expected Family Contribution is the amount of money you and your family are expected to and can contribute to your education. Expected Family Contribution


There are many different financial aid terms you should know as well as programs to tap into. Learn more here. Financial aid terms and programs


There are many different financial aid programs for students to tap into from Stafford Loans, to Perkins Loans to PLUS Loans and more. Types of financial aid

Did You Know?

Beginning in the fall of 2016, FAFSA will be available starting on October 1st. In the past, FAFSA was not available until January 1st. Now your next question is, how do we apply for financial aid when we might not know how much money we have earned in a year and haven’t filed our taxes yet? On the FAFSA form, you make an estimation and then in the spring you will be prompted to submit your final tax data to FAFSA. Please note: FAFSA is integrated with the IRS and they will match up your tax information with what you put on your FAFSA forms, so please be honest and accurate or else your child may have to major in criminal justice and pay more for college!

For the next two years, FAFSA aid will be based on tax year 2015 income for 2 years, 2016-17 and 2017-18. This is known as the prior prior phenomena.

Asset protection allowance is being reduced to $6,300 from $28,200 in fiscal year 2016. Translated in English, this is bad for you. It means if you had $100,000 in taxable assets, FAFSA previously forgave $28,200 of that as not calculated towards the FAFSA application and only looked at $71,800. Now that figure will be much higher and you may have to contribute more money to your child’s education.

FAFSA is a financial aid program available for anyone to fill out and you need to do it if you are applying for financial aid at any school that receives federal grant money. Please note, there are roughly 280 private schools that are also members of the CSS (College Scholarship Service). That is a completely different form that needs to be filled out if you are applying for aid at one of those schools. See CSS Profile Form