College Financial Aid: FAFSA and CSS


When it comes to pursuing higher education, financial considerations often play a significant role in the decision-making process. There are various avenues available to help students finance their college education, and two important resources are the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile. Let’s explore the importance of completing these applications and what is involved in completing them and getting them submitted.

The FAFSA is a crucial application for all U.S. students seeking financial aid for college. It is the gateway to federal aid programs, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and federal student loans. Many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their financial aid programs.

Completing the FAFSA will require the following:

  • Gather necessary documents: Before starting the FAFSA, gather essential documents such as your Social Security number, driver’s license, federal tax returns, W-2 forms, and records of untaxed income. If you are a dependent student, you will also need your parents’ financial information.
  • Create an FSA ID: To access and sign your FAFSA, you will need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Visit the Federal Student Aid website ( to create your FSA ID.
  • Start the application: Begin the FAFSA by visiting Fill out the form online using accurate and up-to-date information. The FAFSA is available starting October 1st each year, and it is recommended to complete it as early as possible for better chances of receiving aid. Yes, the early bird catches the worm!
  • List colleges and submit: Include the schools you are applying to on your FAFSA. You can list up to ten schools, and they will receive your financial information directly. Review your application carefully for accuracy and submit it online.

In addition to the FAFSA, some colleges and universities require the CSS Profile to assess your eligibility for nonfederal financial aid, including institutional scholarships, grants, and need-based aid. The CSS Profile provides a more detailed analysis of your financial situation compared to the FAFSA.  Many times this is required by private schools, but some public schools do as well.  I would also add this is more involved and detailed than the FAFSA, so be prepared.

Completing the CSS Profile will require the following:

  • Check college requirements: Confirm whether your desired colleges or universities require the CSS Profile. You can find this information on their financial aid websites.
  • Create an account: Visit the College Board’s CSS Profile website ( and create an account. You will need your FSA ID, so make sure you have it handy.
  • Fill out the application: Complete the CSS Profile by providing detailed financial information about yourself and your parents if you are a dependent student. Be prepared to provide information on income, assets, expenses, and other relevant financial details.
  • Submit and pay: After completing the CSS Profile, submit it and pay the required fee. The fee varies depending on the number of colleges you send the profile to and your financial circumstances. Fee waivers are available for eligible students, so make sure you check if this applies to you before you pay the fee.

Navigating college financial aid can be a complex process, but completing the FAFSA and CSS Profile are essential steps to access various forms of financial assistance. Understanding the importance of these applications and completing them early can increase your chances of receiving financial aid for college. Be sure to complete these applications accurately so you can take advantage of these resources and make your college dreams more attainable through financial assistance.

We would be happy to schedule a time to discuss how the FAFSA and CSS may help your family and the importance of completing them early.  Feel free to schedule a 30 Minute Zoom Meeting for us to discuss this and see how we may be a good fit for assisting you in getting a succession plan in place.

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice. Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. To determine what may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor.

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