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The differences between CSS and FAFSA.

CCS and FAFSA are the two biggest financial aid and scholarship applications to apply for. While they do look similar on the surface, let's dive deep into figuring out what the requirements are for each, and what benefit they bring to you!


CSS: College Scholarship Service

The CSS profile, or the College Scholarship Service profile, is an application created by College Board, the same service that puts together the AP and SAT tests. The CSS is for private colleges and universities. This is the biggest differentiator between the CSS and FAFSA. Some private colleges require the CSS to be eligible for scholarships, grants, or loans that come from non-federal points. It's also not free. There is a fee associated with submitting the application. However like the FAFSA application, you will be required to list financial information, as well as what schools you're applying to, but they ask for more in-depth details compared to FAFSA.


FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

FAFSA is something almost every student applying to college has heard of at one time or another. FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the best way to get financial aid for colleges. It can apply to any university, private or public, that offers federal financial aid. It's also (as the name implies) free to submit. This easier application is extremely popular amongst students.


Quick list of similarities and differences:

  • Both can be submitted as early as December for the following school year.

  • Both require some form of financial information and schools you apply to.

  • The CSS form is not free, compared to FAFSA which is.

  • FAFSA asks less financial questions compared to CSS.

  • CSS and FAFSA use different methodologies to determine the loan or grant amount.


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