Financial Aid Deep Dive: CSS Profile
Do the schools you are applying to require the CSS Profile? Confused about what that means? Deepen your financial aid understanding with CollegeAdvisor.com.
Former Admissions Officer Ashly Cargle-Thompson will share her insider knowledge on how to complete the CSS Profile, during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered, including:
– What is the CSS Profile?
– What is the difference between the FAFSA and CSS Profile?
– What type of questions will the CSS Profile ask?
– What information and materials do I need ready when working through the CSS Profile application?
Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-11-09 – Financial Aid Deep Dive: CSS Profile
Hi everyone. Good evening. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor and I will be your moderator today. Welcome to today’s webinar, which will be Financial Aid Deep Dive on the CSS Profile. To orient everyone with the webinar timing. First representative will share contact, tips and resources for completing the CSS profile.
And then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions. In a live Q&A, I will ask that you work to keep your questions general and avoid asking individual or personal questions. Um, on the sidebar, you can download our slides under the handouts tab and you can start submitting questions in the Q&A tab.
And again, please try to keep them general. Um, now let’s meet our presenter, Ashly Cargle-Thompson. Ashly, can you take a few minutes to introduce. Hi everyone. My name’s. My name’s Ashly Cargle-Thompson. I am the team lead for the financial aid specialist team here at CollegeAdvisor. My background in financial aid dates back nearly a decade.
Um, most recently I served as the Associate Director of admissions and financial aid, uh, at Emory University. So I’m happy to be here with you tonight. Um, we’re gonna do something a bit different and so hopefully it, um, it helps take some of the stress and some of the anxiety of the unknown of the css, uh, profile away from you and allows you to kind of get going on your financial aid journey.
So, Just to start, um, what is the CSS profile? Uh, so the CSS profile, um, I’m gonna assume that most of you know what the FAFSA is and have hopefully at least attempted it, if not already submitted it, But where the FAFSA is intended to identify financial need and eligibility for federally funded programs.
The CSS profile is an application that’s intended to identify financial need and general eligibility for institutionally based funding. Um, not all schools use the CSS profile. I think right now it’s just under 300, and the vast majority of them are private schools. Um, but they are really, it is really helpful for schools to have the CSS profile because it helps them further contextualize your financial picture and.
Ideally allows them to offer you, um, a more accurately scaled financial aid package. The other plus of the CSS profile is that it allows international students to provide financial, to provide financial information, um, on a financial aid, um, application document. So a lot of times, schools that don’t take the CSS profile don’t really have a means for fin for international students, um, or otherwise undocumented students, non-US citizens, non-eligible US citizens, um, to submit anything about their financial circumstances, which can make it really hard for them to find aid.
The CSS profile offers an avenue for that as well. So, like I said, there’s only, there’s just fewer than 300 schools right now accepting the CSS profile that partner in that program. So it’s possible that depending on the schools, um, that you’re looking to apply to or that your, your student is looking to apply to, that you might not have to complete the CSS profile at all.
And if that’s the case where you can figure that out by going to the CSS Profiles website and clicking on the participating institutions link on that page. And I have a little screenshot here, , um, that you might not fully be able to see. But on that page it’ll list all of the universities alphabetically.
And it will also tell you things like whether or. The CSS profile is scaled for international students, so all schools that take the CSS profile don’t always have a document for international students to fill out. It will also tell you whether or not that school requires, um, the non-custodial parent to complete any information and will get into that a little bit later.
And it will also say, tell you whether or not, um, it’s an IDOC school. We’ll get into that later. But really, IDOC is a service used to, um, upload documentation. But we’ll, we’ll touch on that more later. The materials that you’ll need for the CSS profile are very similar to the materials that you need or needed for the FAFSA.
In fact, if you’ve already completed the FAFSA and you have your student aid report from the FAFSA, that’s a great thing to have next to you. You can, you, we obviously do want you to have any of your tax records available, but for the most part, the CSS is going to mirror a lot of the questions that you see on the FAFSA.
So, um, having your SAR there makes it very easy to move from one question to the other. Um, other things that you’ll want to have are also records of current income, because the CSS profile is going to ask you about things about your current context and your future context. So they’re not just concerned with 2021, they’re concerned.
What’s happening now and what you think might happen in the future, um, you’ll also want to have access to, you won’t need them immediately, but you’ll want to have access to things like bank statements, pay stubs, um, anything that could be used for proof of income. Because once you’ve completed and submitted the CSS profile, you will 99% of the time be asked to submit additional, um, documentation upon after you’ve submitted it.
So make sure that you have that. Ready so that you’re not scrambling to get anything else. The other thing that you’ll want to do, especially if you’re, well, if you’re a divorced or separated family, and the other biological parent, and there’s a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent, is that you’ll want to be prepared and to prepare the non-custodial parent to have to fill out a portion of the css, a CSS profile for non-custodial parents.
So it’ll ask them some questions. Um, but for the most part, like the FAFSA, what they’re really looking at is what is. The custodial parent able to do. If you’re in a situation where you really don’t have contact with a non-custodial parent, um, or for any reason, it’s really not a great idea for you to try and do this together.
Um, then there are non-custodial parent waivers, which is something that the custodial parent would fill out. Um, describing the nature of that relationship and why it’s not possible for the non-custodial parent to participate. Also on that page that when that screen that we looked at that says whether or not it’s an IDOC school, whether or not it’s international, whether or not they have international CSS profile, they will also identify whether or not a school requires non-custodial parents to complete the form.
So if the school doesn’t great, um, if the school does require non-custodial parents to complete the form, then what they’re gonna do is look at that waiver and decide that you submit and decide whether or not they’re still going to require that of you. Um, so that’s just something to be aware of. If, um, there’s a non-custodial and a custodial parent, um, of the student, Okay, so the vast majority of this after this slide is going to be an actual live walkthrough of the CSS profile.
I’ve created a little model family, and we’re gonna go live into a CSS profile application, and I’m gonna talk through some of the points, the stickier points that people get tripped up on. But before we do that, I wanna frame this entire thing, um, by telling you about the two kind of strategies, the two schools of thought that exist in terms of CSS completion.
So the first one is kind of not ask, not answered, and if you’ve gotten any advice about the FAFSA or any kind of financial aid application, you might have been told. If they don’t ask, don’t volunteer it. Um, and. The basis of this first strategy, right, the CSS profile. Unlike the FAFSA, I would say at least 30 to 40% of the questions that we’re gonna encounter on the CSS profile are not required.
And so this first strategy says do not answer anything that’s not required. Um, don’t provide additional information that you don’t have to. Um, and some of that comes from this idea that if you provide additional information that schools do not ask for, you’re leaving the door open for them to interpret that additional information as potentially a greater ability to pay.
So only give them what they ask for. Um, the CSS profile is, In a lot of ways a standardized form. So even though you have multiple schools that are getting it, and some of those schools might have their own questions, that’s gonna all happen in a supplemental area. And so a lot of schools might not need all of the information that the CSS profile is asking you to complete.
That’s why there are some fields that aren’t required. So the rationale with this one is that if you fill out the standardized form and give them all the information up front, what you’re basically doing is giving some schools that aren’t even gonna be looking for that information, additional information that they didn’t ask for and that they might not need, and that could impact your final aid offer.
Um, the other part of it is that it forces schools to kind of show their cards, right? Because all of these schools are going to, if they require additional information, They’re gonna contact you and let you know that we need additional information. Also, a lot of the, the fields that you see that aren’t required are already going to be the information’s already there on your tax forms.
So, in a way, completing the CSS profile and submitting your tax form and the fact that the school’s also gonna get your FAFSA, you’re in effect submitting information in triplicate. Um, so to keep it short, keep it simple. And then on top of that, force the schools to tell you what they think is important, um, allows you to feel like you have a little bit more control of the, of the situation.
And it also helps you start to understand how you might draft your appeal. At the same time, not answering everything is basically, in some ways, asking to get an initial financial aid offer that is not gonna fit because they don’t have necessarily all of the information. Um, and so that’s being a little bit resigned to the fact that you are going to have to appeal, um, but you might be able to gather additional information about what’s important to that institution by holding back, enforcing them to come to you.
That’s the theory with that one. The other approach is to go all in and answer all of the questions, um, with as much detail as you possibly can to take advantage of the fact that the CSS profile is designed to provide context where the FAFSA does not. Um, and to take advantage of that and actually provide those details upfront.
That allows you to fill in the gaps between the EFC and what you actually can afford. Um, and it also will provide a really consistent and transparent kind of thread throughout all of your financial documents. So in the event that you do fill everything out and you still get a financial aid offer that doesn’t work during the appeal, you’re not kind of pulling rabbits out of hats and you know, there’s not all these plot twists.
There’s actual evidence that this has been the issue and you’ve been trying to communicate that so that. That in some cases might be more beneficial. Um, it also means that on some level you’re open to hearing what the initial offer is before you appeal, but you should also be ready to appeal. Um, I am not going to recommend one strategy over the other, but what I will say is that the not asked, not answered strategy.
Only really gonna be at its most effective for families who already have a high EFC who already know that they’re gonna pay a lot out of pocket. So being able to harness as much, um, control and rest as much control back from the universities, to be able to construct your narrative the way that you want to in the appeals process might give you a little bit of an edge.
Um, on the other hand, the kind of heavily contextualized, let’s answer everything, let’s put everything out there, Um, would really benefit families that already have a pretty good, um, demonstration of high need. Um, because then even if you get a financial aid package that doesn’t quite get you over the line, you can point to things all the way throughout your financial, um, Your financial applications, your FAFSA, and your CSS profile, and let people know, like these things are all here, they’re all documented.
Um, and so that might give you the edge, but there’s a lot of other factors in terms of why families might prefer one over the other. Um, and so I’m gonna leave it in your hands, which strategy you prefer moving forward. When we do this walkthrough, I will say that we’re going to assume the not asked, not answered approach, but you will get to see what sorts of questions on the CSS profile are required and which ones aren’t.
We’re just not gonna answer the non-required ones. So let’s jump into it. Uh, so the CSS profile, you can find it at cssprofile.collegeboard.org. If your student has taken the SATs, pre SATs, chances are they al well, they absolutely already have a college board account, and you can access the CSS profile through there.
So the CSS profile does not require you to, um, create a FAFSA ID and do all those additional steps that the FAFSA does. There’s a very quick and easy entry into it, um, so you can access it through your student’s account. If your student didn’t take the s a t and does not have a college board account, you as a parent can make one or they can make one, but it’s very easy to access.
So once you log in, this is. The CSS profile kind of dashboard looks like this is what it looks like after you’ve started to complete it. What I’ve done here is I’ve created a little test family, um, and gone through the application. We will, I’m probably going to really dig in at parent income because a lot of this other information is really straightforward.
But just to tell you kind of what to expect in terms of who this family is. Um, this is a divorced family. The student lives with a father and a stepmother, and the mother, um, the biological mother is the non-custodial parent. So the dad is completing the CSS profile for his student, and they have. The student has one step sister who is currently in college, and then one younger sibling who is, I think in eighth grade.
So just so that you have a sense of what this family looks like, and you can kind of sense, okay, what might be different for my family, that’s, that’s basically the case study. So when you get into the section part, it’s gonna ask you really basic information about the student. A lot of this is stuff that you’ve seen already.
Citizenship, name, all of that. I’m not gonna get super into it, but you can already see where information is required. It will tell you if information is required, So if you’re going to do the not asked, not answer. Section, skip through all of these, Skip or you can’t skip through all of these. Um, you have to go ahead and answer them and it won’t let you move forward if you miss a required question.
I’m gonna go back to the sections though, and we can get into parental relationships because here there was something that was a little bit tricky. So when you get here initially, there’s nothing. It just says parental relationships add parent. What it doesn’t make really clear is that you do need to add any step parents.
So if either of the biological parents are now remarried or living with a partner, they need to add that person as a parent. So just so that you can see what the options are, um, there’s some place to give the name and then you could say stepmother, stepfather, father, legal guardian, other, um, If you are not married to the partner, you can list other and then give them a bit more information.
But you absolutely, absolutely need to list step parents. Gonna go ahead and remove that. Okay. Let’s save and continue. It’s going to also ask, um, basically this question is the one that’s trying to identify who is the custodial parent? And just like the FAFSA, the real indicator is where does the student live most of the time?
Who is, who has the most financial responsibility for the student? And like the FAFSA, if there’s a tie, if the student is living equally with both parents. Um, if the student is equally. Uh, financially supported by both parents. Then the tiebreakers are, well, which parent during the tax year? So during 2021, claimed the student and also which parent makes more money.
Those are usually the tiebreakers that you can, that you can go back on. Um, so you would collect, you would select it and then keep going. And then that way once you select, um, which parent you live the most with, Oh, I’m sorry. The other thing is that you would have to say dad and stepmom. Um, so if there’s a parent, you have to click both.
If they ask a question about parents, but that was the thing that people can get tripped on With parental relationship, the residents questions are very straightforward. The academic information sections are very straightforward. It’s gonna make me. Continue this, even though I already saved it. There we go.
So we’ll say that. Actually following my own instructions, we would say that they’re actually married, You would say the year that they were married. So let’s say 2011.
All right. I think that saved all my other stuff. It didn’t, but it’s okay. It allowed me to go back to back out of here so that we can get into parent income, and that’s really where we want to drill down. So, Again, this is going to look a lot like the FAFSA. So if you have not done either of these things, I recommend doing the FAFSA.
It’s less intuitive and so getting the hard one out of the way first makes it really easy and you get that very neat, very organized student aid report that you can pull things from, uh, to make the CSS profile easier, but you identify your tax returns. See that all of these things are required.
It’s gonna ask again, like, what’s your adjusted gross income? Pull that right off of your 1040. Actually, I wanna point this out right here. Here is. Non-required question. Question, Did the student’s parents file a 1040 schedule one? You don’t have to answer that. Now. I wanna be clear. You’re not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes.
Like I said, schools are going to ask for your tax documents, so they’re going to get all of this information. You’re just choosing not to put it into, again, a standardized form that is going to be, you don’t know how they’re going to measure that information. Whether there are things that, if there’s something in this field that automatically rolls a student out for this, you’re gonna force them to actually look a little bit closer at your taxes and to make maybe more intentional decisions, or, that’s the logic, um, by not answering these questions, especially these yes or no questions.
Another point is that if you get to, if you’re gonna do the not ask not answered strategy, um, Then when you get to these yes or no questions, it’s really important that you don’t click anything. If you click anything, if you click no, you can’t un-click, so then you’re forced to answer yes or no. So the second you click either of those buttons, you’re not able to skip that question anymore.
Also, when you pick a strategy, I really recommend that you stick with it. Um, you want to make sure. You’re either not answering any of the required questions with one caveat, which is that the student Social security quest, there’s a question asking for the student social security number. Um, that’s technically not required.
I recommend that you do give the student social security number, however, because that’s usually how they’re gonna match your CSS profile with your admissions application and know very easily that okay, this student has submitted everything else. They use your social security or the last four of your social to do that.
So if you withhold that, then your CSS profile could end up in who knows where, um, for a while until they’re able to find some other way to match it. Um, but you do wanna keep everything consistent. So if you’re going to skip questions, skip them all. If you are going to answer the questions, answer them all, going back and forth and kind of doing some combination of the two.
Could be read as though you are very, um, strategically choosing what you want to answer and what you don’t want to answer. And so that can read as less transparent than, Okay, this person just didn’t answer anything that’s not required. And this person answered literally everything that they were asked.
Just pick aside and stick with it. It’ll ask about wages and tips. Um, again, the wages and tips part is required, but none of these other things are required. But again, all of these things are reflected on your tax documents.
It’ll ask for how much taxes are paid.
Asks if you had a schedule two or three with your 1040. They’re gonna ask how much did the parents earn from work? And so you need to fill that out. I left this one blank because you really do need to actually put something in a required field. So let’s say zero. She didn’t, stepmom didn’t earn anything.
Um, again, more required. So one of the things that we’re going to get to very soon
is, but I won’t jump to that, to that, I do wanna point this one out. Um, so there are a couple of questions, um, that can also trick trip people up that are on the CSS profile, and I don’t know that they’re anywhere else. Um, one of them is this question, income from other members of their house. So what they’re asking about is anything that’s regularly being paid.
So if you have other family members living with you and in return they’re covering some sort of bill, but they’re very clear. These little, um, info care bubbles are really helpful. They’re much more helpful, I think, in my opinion, than the sta than the FSA ones, um, because they tell you very explicitly what not to include.
And so they really help you really understand the spirit of the question. Um, so that one is basically if you have another family member who is helping pay toward bills. Um, the other one is money given to them or paid on their behalf. So that would be like if you had grandparents that were covering certain bills, um, for the family.
Untaxed income is required. So again, that question is asked on your FAFSA, so you should be able to pull that from your student aid report. Okay, so this is the part that I was getting to. The CSS profile is gonna ask you all the stuff about the FAFSA, about 2021. They’re also going to ask you about 2022, and even in some cases, 2023 on some questions.
So here’s the big thing. Do not overestimate your earnings, right? If you have a, if you, if you make a salary, then you know what you’re gonna make this year, more or less, unless you’ve kind of gotta raise mid-year or something. But you know what you’re gonna make this year. But if you have any sort of job where you work on commissions or you work based on, you know, sales or anything like that, where you don’t have a whole lot of control over what you make month to month, then you do not want to overestimate even if you have a huge deal sitting in the pot.
Um, and, and if that deal has not been signed and you have not gotten your commission, don’t count it. Um, so that means that in this case, you want to figure out what the absolute minimum that you would earn in 2022 would be. So if you still have some commissions coming, If you have not gotten them yet, If the deal’s not done, then do not count them.
Okay, so here’s one. We’re looking at it, It might look like I answered something that I didn’t have to, but this was a requirement of this required, um, question. So it asks about untaxed income and benefits. And so, um, once I set that up, then this question appeared asking me what the sources were. So I had to answer that.
Also, if you try and skip through something, it will bug you to complete those fields. All right, so this is another question. So this is a question where you’re, if you’re kind of doing the context matters approach, you absolutely want to say yes. Um, or you, you, and, and yes is true, then you absolutely want to answer this question.
If you’re doing it’s the not asked, not answered approach, then you don’t have to answer it. But it might be something obviously that you bring up in the appeal if Covid has indeed impacted your income. So it’s these sorts of questions and that’s why it’s important to look at this application kind of together.
Knowing those two strategies, because it’s questions like this that are really going to be the deciding factor of which strategy you’re going to use. How comfortable are you submitting a financial aid profile, application cation, um, knowing that your income was impacted this year and not actually clicking yes and letting them know.
So this one is required. So here’s one of the 2023 questions. Do parents, do students parents expect a significant income change in 2023 due to a new job, job loss, retirement benefits, changes? Um, again, this one is required. If you don’t know, then I would obviously say no. Um, like if you don’t know that anything is gonna change, if you don’t know that you’re gonna get a promotion or if your benefits are going to change, then say no.
Um, only say yes if you absolutely have a plan and know that. So I said yes in this situation, and that was so that we could see, um, what other information they’re looking for. So again, they’re gonna ask for how much you expect to receive in 2023. So we’re looking more than a year ahead. For other, for in, for untaxed, um, income and benefits.
Again, that’s like a 401k. There’s, um, all manner of things, uh, that you would say here only if you have a way of calculating what you’re going to get. Would I change the number from what I reported for 2022?
So only if you have scaled income or something like that where you know that what you’re gonna make is going to be X and you know that based on X, you’re gonna do a percentage of that. You’re gonna do 2% of that, then you can calculate what you would, where you would be in 2023. But if there are any balls in the air, then again, you want to report the minimum.
So you wanna be honest, um, you, but you wanna report the minimum that you can absolutely be sure about. Overestimating anything can impact your financial aid package. And if you’re expecting something to come through and it doesn’t, and you’re stuck with a financial aid package that was accounting for that additional income, then that can be a tough situation to manage.
So that’s why you wanna make sure that you’re reporting everything, um, as conservatively as possible. So this next question is going to ask about any, um, government support that the students family has received. One of the things that’s really upsetting to families about the CSS profile is that it is not free, like the FAFSA.
Um, there is a $9 administrative fee and then it’s $16 for every. School that you want this information sent to. So to go to, to send it to just one school, it’s gonna be $25 and then it’s gonna be $16 for every school after that. And depending on how many schools your student is applying to and how many of those are CSS partner schools that can add up.
Um, there are a couple of things that immediately qualify a family for a waiver. One of them is if you participate in any of these programs. Once you click this, uh, you will see, um, at the end of your profile, like where they’re asking to pay, that you are eligible for a waiver and you will not be charged for, for this service.
Um, the other one is, the other threshold is that families that report under a hundred thousand dollars of income are automatically, um, waived from having to pay.
Okay. And so now they’re gonna ask parent employment, um, questions. So again, not required. They want to know what your employment status is. And again, if you’re unemployed and you choose the not ask not answered, and you know that being unemployed would definitely, well, we don’t know that it definitely would, but could positively impact, um, your aid eligibility.
Is it worth not reporting to you or is it something that you’re like, Ugh, I really think that that’s an important thing to put out there immediately.
Then they’ll ask about armed forces, um, dislocated worker. That’s not required. Again, occupation not required. They’ll ask about different types of retirement plans. Not required, but then they do require you to report on the value of your retirement plan, uh, if you have one, but again, you can’t really wriggle out of that because this should be reflected on your taxes.
And then similar questions about the other custodial parent. I don’t know why I didn’t save any of stepmom’s stuff.
Okay, we’ll save zero there.
Okay. And so now we’ve gotten through the custodial parents, and now you’ll see it’s gonna ask a question about the parent that does not live in the student’s primary home, the non-custodial parent. So there are a couple of tricks here that you might also be interested in knowing. Um, so you’re gonna put the information here, Um, they’re gonna require an address, but right here it says inter unknown if this information is unknown.
So you can get through this by saying unknown. Um, I would recommend for contact information, you really do wanna give them the contact information because again, there are schools, a lot of schools require information from the non-custodial parent. Um, you can’t be sure that they’re going to waive your, that requirement, even if you submit a waiver form.
So you wanna make sure that they can contact the, the non-custodial parent, um, if at all possible. They’ll ask when separation happened, when your divorce happened, um, if that was a case. If there was never a divorce, then you would say no. So this is one of the questions, um, where there’s a little strategy here.
So they do require you to report the non-custodial parent’s occupation or employer selecting unknown. Even if you do know it is the safest thing to do. One, because again, especially with the not asked, not answered strategy, you don’t want to give them anything that you don’t absolutely have to. But two, if this is a non-custodial parent, and especially if you plan on submitting a waiver, then you don’t necessarily know what.
What their employment situation is gonna be. You don’t know whether they’ve gotten a promotion, you don’t know whether or not they’ve moved jobs internally. Um, so it’s just safer to put unknown and allow them to report that for themselves, um, because they, they will be asked.
So this question, what amount will mom contribute? Mom, the non-custodial parent contribute towards the student’s educational costs, um, for 23-24. So again, the non-custodial parent will be asked this. So unless you have something in writing right here it says there’s a written agreement specifying this contribution unless you have something in writing or the non-custodial parent has a 529 for the student.
Um, Report zero. If the non-custodial parent has a 529 in the student’s name, then yeah, you’ll wanna report that, um, that they’re gonna, they’re gonna contribute that much. Um, but that would be another way of kind of getting that. And then finally, if anything, do provide an email address if you have a current one, because that is how they’re going to be notified that they need to complete the non-custodial portion, parent portion of the CSS profile.
Oops. So I just clicked yes on a not required question, but it’s fine. Um, because I’m not submitting this, but like I said, I won’t be able to go and un-click it. I have to answer yes to that question. Um, and either way, they still ask for the parent’s home address. Um, and that’s required. They’ll ask what your housing situation is that’s required, and now they’re gonna ask questions, some required questions about your home.
I know that this is a question that makes families really nervous, um, especially given inflation and what the housing market has done. Um, this is like the one place we’re getting a bunch of equity for now is not fantastic news. Um, but just to kind of put your minds at ease, most schools do not look at the entire value of your house as something that, that, as an indicator that you can afford to pay that much.
They don’t see this as as liquid in the FAFSA, for instance. All of these sorts of assets are multiplied by 0.12, meaning that they’re really only gonna factor in 12% of the value. Some schools factor in in their own formulas. 5% of the value. So even though that’s gonna be significantly more than it was say in 2019, they’re not looking at the entire value of your house and saying, Okay, well if the family, you know, sells their house, they can afford to pay full price.
Um, so they’ll ask questions about the purchase price. Also, I think that this is helpful. They ask about the purchase price, but they also ask about current market value, um, and how much is still owed on the home. That’s still a lot more context than what you’re providing. Um, in the FAFSA
they’ll ask about, um, what’s owed on the mortgage? They’ll. Your housing payment. So this one can be a bit of a pain because if you have everything rolled into escrow, uh, you have to separate that out because they really only want to know what your principle and interest is on your mortgage. So you’ll have to pull that part out if you are paying a mortgage and have everything rolled together.
So now they’ll ask some questions about your step or your siblings, or any additional dependents that your parents have. Again, when you get to this page, it’s completely blank and you have to add a dependent and it will ask really basic information and then ask you to identify the relationship to the student.
So, like I said, we have a little brother and we have a stepsister.
And just to kind of show you what else they’ll ask, they ask about what grade your siblings are gonna be in, are in currently this year, and what grade they’re gonna be in next year.
And if you have any siblings or children who are, um, still school age, so K through 12, they’ll ask whether or not those students are attending private school.
It’ll also ask, but this is not required how much the name of the school that the other, if they’re, you have a college-aged student, the name of the school they’re attending. The cost of attendance at that school, the amount that they’re receiving in scholarships and grants, and the total, um, expenses that are paid by the family.
So again, you can kind of see why the not answered strategy would be at play here, because are you, are they going to, if you pay 15,000 a year for that child and are kind of cashed out and can’t afford to pay that much for this child, are they gonna look at that 15,000 a year that you’re paying now and say, Oh, well then they can, they can afford to do at least that for this kid.
Or are they gonna say, Oh, wow, that’s really tapped them out, They’re gonna need more money. You don’t know. And so that’s, that’s a good example of why that rationale exists. Um, dependent education expenses. So we’ve kind of looked at that. Okay. , then they’ll ask any questions. And this will only show up for divorced or kind of separated families.
Um, the CSS profile is a responsive form, so there’s gonna be some things that show up based on questions that you’ve answered prior, and there’s gonna be some things that completely get cut out based on answers that you, uh, submitted prior. Okay, so more child support questions. And so now they’re asking about expenses.
So are there any big health expenses they wanna know about? Parents loans, um, repayment, alimony, anything like that. From 2021,
they’ll ask about, um, how much you have in cash. You’ve already reported that on the FAFSA, they do want it as of the date that you’re filling it out. So if you filled out the FAFSA, you know, October one and major things have happened in your bank account, then you’ll have to go back and kind of recalculate.
But if, for the most part your bank account stays pretty steady, then um, you can probably report what you reported in the FAFSA. Um, now they’re gonna ask about the students, uh, or about assets. So they do a, require you to, um, disclose any investments that you have. Um, I said in this one that they owned a business because I wanted people to be able to see what sorts of questions they ask about ask of business owners.
And I also said that they have a rental property. This question trips people up a lot. This is not the same as having a 529 for your student. This is if you have a savings account and have put your child’s name on it instead of yours for reasons. Um, so be sure to, if anything feels weird, be sure to read this.
But we’ve already seen where you would report the 529, so that’s not the same thing as this question.
Or sorry, this is where you would report, or this is not where you would report the 529. So these are additional, um, investments that don’t meet these criteria that you would report here or the market value of those investments. This is where you report how much real estate property you have. And just so that you can see what they ask.
They want to know the address.
They’ll wanna know how many months a year are you getting income from it? How long have you owned it, when did you acquire it? How much you know is what’s it valued at. One of the things that can, um, trip families up with additional real estate is whether or not, or how you report, uh, income properties. Um, what they’re looking for is if you have an income property, a rental property, that its primary purpose is.
Bring in income, then you would report it that way. Um, if it is under a business and not owned under your name, if you own income properties under a family business, then you would report that differently. So this would be if you have an apartment that your family owns, it’s in your name, you rent it out, and you, you know, take that kind of into your own, um, into your own financials and handle it that way.
Um, this would not be, or this would be if you had a vacation home or if even if you have the vacation home and you put it on Airbnb, sometimes if you spend time there, then that’s still a vacation home. So you wanna make sure that you understand, and again, these are really helpful, what they’re asking for, um, when they’re asking you to report this kind of thing.
Okay, so this is what it looks like. If you’re a business owner, they’re gonna ask you the name of the business. It’s gonna be required. They’ll ask you the address, the type of business that you own, and kind of what primarily does that business do. They’ll ask who owns it, how much, um, ownership do they have, how much stake do they have, how long has it been around?
Um, and then this is the big question also on the FAFSA, does the business employee more than a hundred full-time employees? So on the FAFSA, if you say no, then they’re kind of like, Okay, we’re not even gonna look at your business income. Um, that’s at least for this year. Um, you can assume that that’s the rationale that’s also being used at this.
They want to know if this is a huge conglomerate corporation or if this is a small family. Uh, they wanna know if any other family members have stake in your business, the market value of the business, um, and how much is owed on the business,
and then the tax forms that you would use. Gross receipts, total expenses.
They wanna know, if any, if you pay any other sal, any other family members, a salary, and that’s it for the family. Um, now they’ll take you into the student income, and that’s usually pretty simple. Um, most students don’t earn enough to even to, to have to report. I think the threshold is 12,500. Um, and a lot of students don’t even earn enough to, to justify a W2.
You would put zero in a lot of these situations. But these are also very similar questions to what you’ve already answered. So there’s not a lot, um, that’s different here. So this is one that I want to require, want to point out how much does student expect to receive from the following sources to pay for educational expenses?
So from the parents. So as the parent filling this out, do not overestimate this. Look at your finances and figure out what it is that you could afford to pay today. Um, if that’s nothing, that’s okay. Enter zero. Um, but if you are expecting that there’s gonna be additional, or if they have a 529, take the total value of that 529 and divide it by.
And that’s what you would be able to pay. So, but, but don’t overestimate it. Again, What is the bare minimum? Like, what is the floor for what you can afford? Um, they will ask if the student, um, has received and retained any scholarships, grant, or grants. Um, you only report what the student has been absolutely awarded.
So if they’re a finalist for something, if they’re still waiting to hear, but it’s looking good, do not report it. Only report it. If you have, um, a letter saying that the student has been named a recipient, this is how much it’s going to be. If the amount of the scholarship is still up in the air, anything that is uncertain do not report.
Similarly relatives other than parents providing any resources. So if the grandparents are going to put money toward school, um, unless they have said We are putting $5,000 a year toward her college, we have the money and you know that they’re good for it, don’t report it. If it’s one of those things where there’s a lot of contingencies and they have to see what the market looks like because they’re gonna pull it out of a, don’t report it.
Only report it if you know for certain that that family member is good for the money and has a plan to pay it, because again, that will impact your financial aid package.
Now they’ll ask about student assets. Again, a lot of this is not required, but they will want to know how much the student has in their bank account.
Retirement. Usually the answer is no. Okay, so here’s the special circumstances part, and this is again, a point of divergence for these two different strategies for how you would complete the CSS profile. If you are doing the not ask not answered section, you’re gonna say none. You’re going to say that none of you don’t.
You do not wish to report any special circumstances that are gonna have a financial impact on your family, even if you have them. Because ultimately what the not asked, not answered strategy is saying is that we’re not gonna tell you anything now. We’re gonna make you come to us and tell us what’s important to you, and we will use that.
We will leverage that to craft our, um, our financial aid appeal letter. So you’re waiting on them to tell you what’s important, and then that way you’ll have more of an idea of what that school values or what sorts of things that school is looking at to determine need and ideally be able to frame that to your benefit.
So again, it’s kind of hard to pass up on this if any of these things are true. Um, if you, So you would, if you’re not asked, not answered, you would say no. If you are going to answer, and if you are on the other end of it and you’re like, I’m gonna give you all the context possible, then you click everything that applies, then you will get.
This box here where you have 2000 characters to basically construct a narrative of your situation. My biggest advice here is to provide specifics. Give them actual hard numbers. So for instance, in financial aid one-on-ones, I have families who have really decent income. They only have one child, but they don’t actually have a lot of money left over because they’re supporting a parent or their first generation and they’re sending money back home to take care of a family back their family back home.
And all of that money comes out of your discretionary funds. That’s not gonna show up anywhere on taxes. That’s only gonna really show up on a bank statement. And so this is your opportunity to start linking those things together because you’re going to submit a bank statement. This is an opportunity to highlight that.
And so then they can see, oh wow, every month they’re sending $1,500, they’re wiring $1,500 to family in Korea. So you want to give as much information as possible, tie it to the documentation that you’re already submitting. Um, and also, if possible, really do the math. Show them how everything works out in terms of what it is that you can afford to pay, because you’ve already reported what you can afford to pay.
And so that math should line up with what your annual, um, kind of capacity for, uh, educational expenses would be. So we’re gonna go back and say
none, just to make this go faster. Okay. So now we’re at the supplemental questions part. Early on, I already indicated, uh, very early up in the application you indicate what schools, um, you’re gonna be sending the CSS profile to. And depending on the school, they might have additional supplemental questions that you have to answer.
But supplemental questions are not a requirement for the CSS profile. So if you’re doing that ask not answered, then you still technically do not have to complete these questions. And Harvard will get back in touch with you and say, Hey, we saw on your CSS profile you opted not to tell us what year make, model and debt owed on your family’s cars are.
Please tell us now. Um, but that’s, that again is up to you. So again, the benefit of doing this walkthrough is to kind of help you get comfortable with how you wanna approach this.
Um, so you saw Harvard had a lot of questions. Um, Notre Dame just has the one, Um, and what they’re wanting to know is how much, how much of the student’s assets are provided by, by you, the parent, and then that’s it. Um, then you will have completed everything. Um, actually I’d have to finish this part, but once you’re done, it will take you to the payment page.
It’ll tally up the number of schools that you’ve listed. It’ll add that $9, um, fee onto it and ask for a credit card or a debit card, or that’s where you find out that, uh, your, that everything was waived. So that is the walk through.
Um, so that there’s a lot of context, and I’m sure a lot of you have very specific, unique situations. Um, and so there’s a couple of additional resources beyond this webinar that you can use to, um, get additional support. One is your. Your students high school, the high school college counseling office, the guidance office, whatever it is that they have.
Usually they will have some sort of financial aid night hosted by that office where parents from that school can come in and ha and have a similar experience, but also maybe ask more specific questions. And a lot of times they’ll have kind of one-on-one meeting spaces and things like that. Um, the other option is that if you are a.
Advisor, a member of the CollegeAdvisor family, um, your student would have access to the financial aid specialist team for a financial aid one-on-one consultation, uh, where a financial aid specialist will actually look at your specific situation. And really you can determine how you want to use that hour, whether it’s you want us to sit with you while you complete the CSS profile and answer any questions that you have, um, or whether it’s us helping you with the appeals process and helping you craft an appeals letter.
It really is driven by you and what your big financial aid priorities are. So, um, if you are a CollegeAdvisor family, um, then make sure that your, at your student asks their advisor that you ask your students advisor for assistance in booking a financial aid one-on-one appointment if you had not already had.
And now I think we have some time for, we have very little time for questions. We do not have any time for questions. I’ve been trying to tackle some in the chat. Um, but yeah, we are at time. So hopefully, um, folks who are able to ask questions in the chat received an answer to those questions. Ashly was very thorough in the information that she provided, and we will, you will receive a recording of this if you wanna go back, um, into, and, and dive deeper into any of her.
Comments, I will say just an additional PSA around CollegeAdvisor. Again, just encouraging you all. If you are interested in or would like to have that support, you can use the QR code on the screen to schedule a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with the CollegeAdvisor team for that specific call.
We’ll talk about the admit application process, talking about extracurriculars, application strategy and other resources like that. But along the way, as Ashly mentioned, if you are a part of the CollegeAdvisor, uh, family, you can, uh, receive additional resources and support around financial aid. Um, We again, we’re not able to get to all the questions.
Um, I did try to answer some in the chat. I’ll say really quickly that you should only be sending the, uh, CSS profile to the colleges that you are planning to apply to and that require it. So check out the CSS Profile Partner Schools page. Every school does not require it, so see the schools that do require it.
Um, thank you so much, Ashly, for being an amazing presenter, for being so thorough. We encourage you to come and check out our other webinars happening this month. Uh, tomorrow we have a session on researching colleges for juniors, sophomores. We’ll discuss the holistic application review process on the 13th and we’ll have a session on crafting extracurriculars on the 14th.
Until then, uh, hope to see you soon. Have a great evening, everyone, in Apologies again that we could not get to your questions, but we hope you found today’s session helpful. Take care everybody. Thanks everyone.