Knowing from personal experience exactly how much fun it is to fill out the FAFSA form, I would not wish to add additional headaches to that process for anyone.
However, if your child is planning to attend a small to midsize private university, or a few select state universities, it’s entirely possible that you might also have to fill out a form called the CSS Profile. This is a form that is administered by the College Board, and there is a fee for filing.
Why is this necessary? Often times the schools that require this form are the ones that have the greater potential to meet need of their incoming students. Maybe they are ones that have a large endowment. In order to be good stewards of the money that they do have available, they will ask more specific financial questions.
And the formulas that they used to compute need will probably be more complex and comprehensive. For instance, there are some schools that will use information about the home equity you have in your personal residence. This is not information that the FAFSA requires. The CSS profile will, in the case of separated parents, be asking about financial information of the noncustodial parent.
Chances are good that if you are a small business owner, the value of that business will play a part in your aid calculation as well if you are filing the CSS profile. This is not always the case with the FAFSA, which only counts businesses that have more than 100 employees.
If you want to know if the colleges on your student shortlist require the CSS profile, go to this website. Just know that it is due in the fall of your child’s senior year in high school, and maybe necessary for their future years in college as well.