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Financial Aid Resources

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Financial Aid Resources

To qualify for state, federal, and institutional financial aid, schools require applicants complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Additionally, many private schools require applicants to complete the College Scholarship Service Financial Aid PROFILE (commonly referred to as the “PROFILE”). For you and the nearly three-quarters of college-bound students who apply for financial aid, determine what documents schools you are applying to require.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a free online application for federal student aid. It is administered by the US Department of Education. If you are applying for financial aid, completing the FAFSA is required by nearly all public and private institutions.

Beginning October 1, 2016 a major change goes into effect referred to as the prior-prior year (PPY). The change allows families to use tax returns completed two years before rather than current year tax returns to complete the FAFSA. Students also can file their FAFSA much earlier–as early as October 1, 2016.

Once you decide which colleges you will apply to, you should register on the FAFSA site to start the application. If you don’t have all the information you need, you can begin the application, save it, and return later to provide additional requested information.

The FAFSA is used to determine the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) annually for college. The EFC varies from student to student since it is based on the specific financial situation of each student and family.


The College Scholarship Service Financial Aid PROFILE is an online application for financial aid required by many selective private colleges. It is administered by the College Board. Some private schools require completion of both the PROFILE and the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for government as well as institutional grants, loans and scholarships.

Major differences between the CSS PROFILE and the FAFSA?

  • Submission Dates
    The CSS PROFILE can be submitted in the fall, about three months before the FAFSA.
    Now with the prior-prior year (PPY) change the FAFSA can be submitted as early as October 1, 2016 (once you have all the tax return and other information in hand).
  • School- or Program-Specific Questions
    The CSS PROFILE contains questions specific to each school or program.
    The FAFSA contains the same questions regardless of school or program.
  • Methodology
    The PROFILE asks for more information than the FAFSA. The PROFILE also determines your financial need differently by taking into account other factors such as primary and vacation home ownership and other assets.
  • Minimum Student Contribution
    Minimum Student Contribution is a component in the PROFILE’s financial aid calculation.
    Minimum Student Contribution is not a component in the FAFSA financial aid calculation.
  • Greater Professional Judgment
    The PROFILE gives financial aid counselors more freedom to grant aid based on a student’s particular circumstances.
  • Cost
    There is a fee for the PROFILE ($25 for the first school and $16 for each additional school), though some families qualify for fee waivers.
    The FAFSA is free.

College Search Resources

Big Future

Big Future, the College Board’s comprehensive search engine, is one of the most valuable college search resources.

On Big Future, you can:

  • Search and find the right college for you based on size, location major, cost and other factors.
  • Get ideas about possible careers and related major.
  • Search for scholarships and get information about how to apply for financial aid and pay for college.
  • Create a personalized plan so you know what to do and when to do it throughout the college preparation, search, and application process.

Big Future includes a wealth of information about specific colleges and universities:

  • Admissions and financial aid deadlines (including early and priority deadlines)
  • Admissions statistics for the most recent entering class
  • Average need-based and non-need-based aid awards given and other financial aid statistics
  • Sports level (club, intramural, DI, DII, etc.) and specific sports programs offered
  • Most popular and complete list of all majors offered
  • General campus information
  • Financial Aid forms required (e.g., FAFSA, CSS PROFILE, other)

College Profiles

College Match Plus travels to colleges around the country to explore campuses first-hand and to meet with senior admissions counselors. See our College Profiles.