The CSS profile is the form many private LACs use to determine the financial needs of families. Other schools, including most SUNYS, use the FAFSA, or both. The advantage of the FAFSA, as I understand it, is that it looks at income only, and is not concerned with home equity, an advantage for families whose homes have increased in value significantly over the years.
Over the summer, we read a book, "How To Pay For Your Child's Education Without Going Broke." Using the book, we were able to determine our EFC, estimated family contribution to the COA, cost of attendance to college. Using an on-line EFC calculator, our estimated EFC was frightening. Using the workbook, we got a better, but still upsetting number. On College Confidential, a website devoted to the posts of college seeking families, I learned that regarding EFC, there is shock, denial and then acceptance. We are moving through the phases.
Our family completed and submitted our CSS profile last night. Elsa is applying to her top school ED and this form was due earlier this month. We missed the deadline, but were told by the FA office that if we got it in in the next few days that we would be in good shape. These decisions are big and complicated. The FAFSA needs to be completed as soon after January 1st as possible. One's tax forms for the previous year should be completed and submitted as soon as possible as well.
For more information about the CSS profile, go to collegeboard.com. About the FAFSA, look at fafsa.org. There is also lots and lots of information on collegeconfidential. com. I read the Parent Pages, Financial Aid pages and the College Admission pages regularly. But, if you are new to this process, be prepared to feel a but upset and panicky after viewing many posts. Avoid the "chance me" posts for sure!