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CSS Profile For International Students

The CSS Profile for international students serves as an internet-based financial aid application utilised by colleges and universities abroad to assess the financial need of both graduate and undergraduate students. This application enables educational institutions to gain insight into a student’s family finances, determine the financial resources available to them, and distribute aid to students in a fair and equitable manner.  

CSS Profile Overview
What is CSS ProfileAn online financial aid application used by colleges to determine eligibility for institutional financial aid
CSS fees$25
CSS Profile DocumentsBank Statements and Income Tax proofs. 
Difference between CSS & FAFSAFAFSA is a requisite form for accessing any financial assistance from the federal government to cover college expenses. Conversely, the CSS Profile serves as an online application service utilised by over 400 universities and scholarship programs. 

What’s Included In The CSS Profile? 

The CSS Profile simplifies applying for financial aid for international students, tailoring the application to each student’s family and their financial requirements. It only presents questions relevant to aid eligibility as determined by the student’s school. Moreover, the CSS Profile facilitates completion in the student’s home currency for added convenience. The application comprises several sections:

  • College and programme Selection: Here, students specify their preferred schools and universities, with these institutions receiving the provided profile information.
  • Personal Details: This section requests the student’s home address, spoken language, any aliases used, and other demographic particulars.
  • Family Background: Details regarding parents, family members, and household composition are solicited in this section.
  • Financial details: Students report personal income, family income, and any accessible foreign assets in this section. Financial information from both parents and their spouses, if relevant, is required.
  • Special Circumstances: Students disclose any unique situations they have faced or are currently experiencing, including financial hardships. They should be prepared to furnish documentation if required.

Benefits Of CSS For International Students 

Designed specifically for students pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies, the CSS Profile offers a streamlined approach to assessing financial need and eligibility for institutional aid. Tailored to individual family circumstances and international nuances, this online application not only simplifies the process but also ensures equitable distribution of financial resources.

  • Customised application: The CSS Profile is customised to each student’s family and financial circumstances, ensuring that only relevant questions are asked, streamlining the application process.
  • Comprehensive financial assessment: It provides a thorough evaluation of a student’s financial need by considering various factors such as family income, assets, and special circumstances.
  • Aid eligibility determination: Colleges and universities utilise the information provided in the CSS Profile to determine a student’s eligibility for institutional financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and work-study programmes.
  • Access to institutional aid: Many colleges and universities require the CSS Profile for consideration of institutional aid, providing students with access to additional sources of financial assistance beyond federal aid programs.
  • International student support: The CSS Profile simplifies the financial aid application process for international students by allowing them to complete parts of the application in their home currency and by considering their unique financial situations.
  • Flexibility and documentation: The CSS Profile allows students to explain any special circumstances or financial hardships they may be facing, providing an opportunity to provide additional documentation if necessary to support their application.

CSS Profile Fee For International Students 

The initial application incurs a fee of $25, with additional reports costing $16 each. Payment can be facilitated via credit or debit card. For first-time domestic college applicants, fee waivers for the CSS Profile may be available if the student qualifies for an SAT fee waiver or meets specific criteria, such as being an orphan or under 24 years old with consideration of parental income and family size. A family of four with an income of $45,000 or less would qualify for such waivers.

Candidates have the flexibility to add colleges to their profile at any juncture by logging into their CSS Profile account and selecting ‘Add a college or program’ from their dashboard. Each additional college incurs a $16 fee. Any unused fee waivers will be automatically applied to these charges.

How To Complete The CSS Profile

Listed below are the steps to follow when making your profile. These measures should be taken by students applying for a college that needs the CSS profile or families that need financial assistance and who have an interest in schools which use the form.

  • Step 1: Make an account of the College Board. Students who have finished the SAT already will have a College Board account to fill up the CSS Profile. 

  • Step 2: Gather the documents needed. In order to accept Federal Financial Assistance students, a CSS profile includes the use of tax records in the same year as a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The CSS profile for international students can be used with most of the same documents for students who have finished FAFSA already. Families record their profits on all forms two years before the year for a pupil. For example, the 2019 tax return will be used by a family who will apply for the 2021-2022 academic year.

  • Step 3: Select classes. Students should decide which colleges they want their CSS profile to get.

  • Step 4: Satisfy the order. It’ll start to sound just the same in several respects. Families would also be encouraged to address special cases in depth. Experts claim it’s a safe way to explain something that doesn’t occur to families about their tax forms or any issue like how much a grandparent would pay abroad or any financial difficulties. Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, several families may believe that their 2-year taxes do not represent their financial conditions sufficiently. In addition to presenting updates about a particular case, families can note that by calling the financial aid office of a college, they will still request further assistance.

  • Step 5: Make the submission. Before the CSS profile, international students are submitted to schools, families must pay an invoice or request a waiver.

  • Step 6: Check back. Following submission of the CSS financial aid profile for international students / CSS financial aid for international students, further guidance may be given. To view the appropriate activities and to see a payment receipt, students can refer back to the College Board Dashboard. When the form is sent, students will also add schools where they choose to send their accounts, but each new school would be fined.

CSS Profile Documents For International Students

Preparing your CSS Profile application requires gathering essential financial documents to accurately reflect your (and, if applicable, your parent(s)) financial situation. Ensuring you have the necessary paperwork ready will streamline the application process and provide the information needed for an accurate assessment of your financial need. Below are the key documents you’ll need to gather:

  • Most recently completed Federal Tax returns (including all schedules)
  • W-2 forms and other records of current year income
  • Records of untaxed income and benefits
  • Documentation of assets
  • Bank statements

Colleges Offering Financial Aid Through CSS

Certain colleges consider the CSS Profile for providing need-based financial aid. Aspiring candidates seek scholarships to pursue their studies at top universities and colleges in the USA. The following institutions either require or accept the CSS Profile for international students: 

Name of UniversityQS World University Ranking 2024
Stanford University#5
California Institute of Technology#15
Johns Hopkins University#28
New York University#38
Duke University#57
Brown University#73
Georgetown University#297
George Washington University#340
Brandeis University#661-670
Worcester Polytechnic Institute#851-900

What Are The Major Costs Of Applying To College? 

Even before you make your college choices, there are a variety of expenses to consider. Knowing these costs will help you budget and plan wisely. It is therefore advisable to understand how to dissect/determine expenses in order to produce a balanced college list. Some of the costs or expenses that you’ll come across when applying for your uni are explained below.

1. University Application Fees: Application fees are levied on international students so that universities can cover the operational costs of examining and evaluating applications. They are charged in a variety of ways:

  • Centralised application fee: UC Application (UCLA, UC Irvine)
  • Individual application fee: The Common Application form, a university-specific application
  • Individual fees & centralised fee: UCAS, Ontario system

2. Financial aid application fees: It is a sheer irony that you could have to pay money only to inform universities that you don’t have enough money to attend. Many colleges utilise a standardised financial aid application, i.e. the CSS Profile, to obtain financial assistance, which costs between $16 and $25 USD per school. To accurately represent the amount of money students have available to pay for college, the online CSS Profile form is filled out with data from government and bank documents. Once a college evaluates the financial account thoroughly, candidates may be eligible for need-based assistance.

3. Postal/courier services fees: If your applications are not electronic, you may have to send them by postal service. This is valid for many international institutions. Check the deadlines for your respective colleges. Many have criteria stating that the application papers “must be stamped and dated/sent by” a certain date.

4. Standardised testing & reporting: There will be a charge to take standardised tests such as the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test if your university list demands them. When you finish testing, if you know which institutions you want to apply to, you can choose to send the results to four colleges and universities for free. If your college list is not researched prior to the testing, score reports must be submitted and paid for separately.

5. Document verification: Some universities may need a legal or government authority to verify or confirm your qualifications. In some situations, your documents may require an official translation or even an apostille, which certifies from one nation to another that the document has been signed by a notary public.

6. Enrollment deposits: As a mark of commitment, you will be asked to submit a deposit at the time of enrolment. The amount of this deposit varies according to school and nation. Even if you receive a scholarship, you may be asked to pay a small, affordable enrollment fee to prove your commitment to the institution.

7. Visa application fees: After you have been offered and accepted a seat at a university, you will begin the process of getting a visa to study in the nation where you intend to study. Visa fees vary by nation and can go up to $550 USD. 

What Are The Major Costs When Attending College?

When attending your university, there are several costs associated that you may not be aware of initially, but will emerge gradually. Some of these costs include –

  • Visa (I-20 and other visa expenses)
  • Tuition (classes) 
  • Board and lodging (living and meal plans)
  • Health Insurance (mandatory)
  • Additional Fees (varies)
  • Personal (airfare, books, miscellaneous)
  • Schools With A CSS Profile
  • The CSS profile for international students is considered only by some schools for financial assistance depending on need. Some are public schools but more are commercial institutions.

CSS Vs. FAFSA: Key Difference 

FAFSA and CSS Profile, both represent an opportunity for securing financial aid. FAFSA is a requisite form for accessing any financial assistance from the federal government to cover college expenses. Conversely, the CSS Profile serves as an online application service utilised by over 400 universities and scholarship programs. Notably, CSS Profile extends scholarships for pursuing MS degrees in the USA. For international students, the CSS financial aid profile offers grants exceeding 10 billion USD (INR 8,20,55,90 lakhs). The following table outlines the distinctions between CSS Profile Aid Vs. FAFSA:

ParametersCSS ProfileFAFSA
Schools AcceptedAccepted by over 400 universities, colleges, and scholarship programsAccepted by any university or college offering federal financial aid
Type of AidProvides access to institutional aidGrants access to federal, state, and institutional aid
Fee$25 USD (INR 2,051) for the initial application  $16 USD (INR 1,313) for each additional applicationFree
Application RenewalRequired annuallyRequired annually
AdministratorManaged by the College BoardAdministered by the U.S. Department of Education
Required InformationBusiness income, asset and income details, medical expenses, untaxed benefits and income records, bank statementsPersonal and background details of parents and candidates, business income, asset and income details
EligibilityAvailable to both international students and U.S. citizensOpen to both non-U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens
How to ApplyOnline application processOnline application process via mail or mobile

CSS Profile Fee Waiver

Can international students apply for a CSS Profile fee waiver? The CSS Profile needs a charge to be charged by families, but others will get a fee waiver.

Note that it costs $25 to fill out the CSS Profile and send it to one degree, plus $16 for each additional college, unlike the FAFSA, which is always free. For those who apply, there are fee waivers required for first-time domestic applicants. Waivers are available for low-income undergraduates who have received a waiver of the SAT fee; in situations where the parental income recorded on the application for the CSS Profile is around $45,000 or less for a family of four; or where students are orphans or court wards under the age of 24. For a family of four, there is no charge for noncustodial parents with a salary of $45,000 or less.

When Is The Deadline For The CSS Profile?

As there is a separate CSS profile for each institution, the deadlines often vary. Experts say the deadlines for the CSS Profile frequently match the deadlines for acceptance, but students can consult with their college to ensure that they apply for the form on time. When it opens on Oct. 1 each year, the same day the FAFSA opens, families will begin completing the CSS Profile.

Information The CSS Profile Asks For

CSS Profile fee waiver international students eligibility: The most recent W-2 forms, tax reports, untaxed income reports, small-business data, mortgage documents, and current bank statements should be given to prospective students who would like to apply for a CSS profile. If you have those documents, other stocks, bonds, or trusts may also be solicited. For at least two years previous to the year you intend to attend college, you may require financial documents. On the day of your CSS profile international students filing, all revenue-related details must be right. When filling out the CSS application form, you will also need to apply your parents’ income data. If your parents are split or divorced, things can get confusing, as most profile colleges would still like to see the revenue of your step-parents. This is inclusive of which house you spend most of the time in.

Can You Make Changes To Your Application?

In the CSS application, families can highlight any specific circumstances that colleges should take into account while considering their applications. Financial circumstances may alter in some cases while the application is being reviewed. Perhaps you discovered an error in your application after submitting it. To offer yourself the best chance at receiving aid, always notify universities of any unusual circumstances or inaccuracies. Because funds are limited, it is critical that you notify the college of any changes as soon as possible.

Should You Fill Out The FAFSA Fed Loans And The CSS Profile?

Yes, you absolutely must. Regardless of whether they already filled out the CSS profile, any student applying for college should fill out the FAFSA. This is because only institutional assistance is provided by the CSS Profile. There is only one kind of help you can receive. On the other hand, the FAFSA is opening the doors to many other kinds of financial assistance. Pell Grants, scholarships, work-study and low-cost subsidised student loans are used with this.

Completing the College Scholarship Service financial aid profile for international students will lead to institutional grants for certain families and a lower net price, which corresponds to what the student currently spends to go to a given college. But for others, submitting the application will not have an impact. Always fill out the CSS application form, regardless. Who knows you may have some special situations, caught by the document that makes you qualify for financial assistance.


Q1. Do international students have to fill CSS Profile?

In order to provide financial assistance to international students, many colleges offer institutional aid. To better understand your financial situation within the context of your local economy, these colleges require information about your family’s income, assets, and expenses. This information is gathered through the CSS Profile application.

Q2. How do I create a CSS Profile?

To create a CSS Profile, visit the College Board’s website and create an account. Provide personal details and answer questions about your family’s financial situation. Pay the required fee and submit the profile to your chosen colleges or universities. Be sure to adhere to deadlines and requirements for each institution.

Q3. Is CSS only for undergraduate students?

The CSS Profile, provided by the College Board, is an online application specifically designed for undergraduate students seeking financial aid. This application serves as a unified platform utilised by nearly 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs. Through the CSS Profile, students can apply for financial assistance by providing relevant information and data to these institutions. 

Q4. Does Harvard require a CSS Profile for international students?

Irrespective of your citizenship status or application timeline, both the CSS Profile and an IDOC Packet are required to be submitted. Additionally, US citizens and permanent residents must also submit to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). These documents are essential for applying for financial aid and determining eligibility for various student aid programs. 

Q6. Does Amherst College offer a CSS Profile fee waiver for international students?

Amherst College provides an alternative to the CSS Profile Fee Waiver for international students by accepting the ISFAA (International Student Financial Aid Application).

Q7. How much is the CSS Profile fee for international students?

The CSS profile fee for international students is $25 . 

Q8. How do I send my CSS Profile to universities? 

Applicants are required to submit the CSS Profile through cssprofile.org. Upon signing in, they will be presented with a checklist of documents, including federal tax returns and other financial records, necessary to complete the application.

Q9. Is the CSS Profile required for all colleges and universities?

Only a certain colleges consider CSS profiles for need based financial aid applications.

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CSS Profile For International Students

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