CSS Profile Basics ...Help Please

<p>Hi everyone. I just joined CC today.</p>

<p>I thought I had things well (enough) in hand with the FAFSA, but have now come to realize that all the schools my son will be applying to require the CSS Profile.</p>

<p>Try as I might, I can't seem to find the CSS Profile questions in any format (PDF Screenshot, html) on the internet. Why is that? The FAFSA form was available, and it was a great help.
Does anyone have a link to the actual questionnaire?</p>

<p>I think I have gleaned that one files a separate CSS Profile for each school applied to? Is that right? ... what a pain!</p>

<p>Also although with FAFSA, our EFC is surely going to be minimal, It seems with the CSS Profile, home equity is considered an asset. Although I live on the other side of the tracks (so to speak and literally), and my home is not worth very much, I nevertheless own it free & clear, so how is this going to effect my EFC vis a vis the CSS Profile?</p>

<p>Thanks so much for any help you can give!</p>

<p>Only a small fraction of the colleges in this country utilize Profile and each school has it's own method for analyzing the information provided. Some use home equity, some don't and on and on. Some of the Profile schools have a estimator calculator on their website. Others might give you an "early read" if you contact them. When you use the generic calculators you are looking for the "institutional method." So it's difficult to tell you how your institutional estimated family contribution will differ from the FAFSA calculation which will be used by the Profile colleges for distribution of federal loans and grants. Some people find that with a simple financial situation the federal estimate is similar to the Profile. Do be aware there is a cost you pay to the Collegeboard company associated with filing Profile.</p>

<p>
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I think I have gleaned that one files a separate CSS Profile for each school applied to? Is that right? ... what a pain!

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</p>

<p>NO...you complete it once and submit it to all the colleges that your son is applying to THAT REQUIRE it. HOWEVER ...many Profile schools do have supplemental questions and those will need to be completed for EACH school as well. </p>

<p>
[quote]
my home is not worth very much, I nevertheless own it free & clear, so how is this going to effect my EFC vis a vis the CSS Profile?

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</p>

<p>This is totally school dependent. Some schools don't count home equity at all...some count only up to a certain %age, and others count the whole thing. YMMV depending on the schools.</p>

<p>Thanks Thumper1 !</p>

<p>If one submits the CSS Profile only once, that would seem to imply a standard set of questions (disregarding supplemental questions from specific colleges). I would really like to have a pre-look at the standard set of questions, but oddly, they do not seem to be available on the internet. </p>

<p>Could you also please describe the protocol as to when the supplemental questions are queried? i.e. having first defined the schools that should receive the Profile, are the supplemental questions embedded in the rest of the standard questions ... or does one list the schools after having completed the standard questions and then receive the supplemental questions? Sorry if I'm asking for too much detail.</p>

<p>When you enter the codes for the schools to which you plan to submit the PROFILE...the supplemental questions for all will be added (at least that is what happened when DD applied a number of years ago...if this has changed...I'm sure someone will clarify). You answer all of those supplemental questions but only the info requested by each college is sent to them.</p>

<p>If you register for the Profile (I don't believe the one for 2012-2013 school year is available yet...perhaps by end of Sept/beginning of Oct) you can easily see the questions as the form will be available for you to complete. You don't have to do it at that time but it will be there.</p>

<p>Re: info needed...you will need the following:</p>

<ol>
<li><p>All the same info that is on the FAFSA (AGI, assets, bank account info, etc)</p></li>
<li><p>Value of your primary residence as well as any mortgage you have on the property.</p></li>
<li><p>Some colleges will ask you your debts (not sure how they use those) and the current balances in any of your retirement accounts (again...not sure how these schools use this information).</p></li>
</ol>

<p>OH...and you will also need the income/asset information for your college bound student as these are actually THEIR forms which request YOUR information.</p>

<p>If you and your child's other parent are married...you will need to provide info for both parents on the FAFSA. </p>

<p>If you and your child's other parent are divorced, SOME schools using the Profile WILL require non-custodial parent info. The FAFSA does not.</p>

<p>Sometimes you will need to enter automobile information and any assets such as saving accounts for other kids in the family as well.</p>

<p>And if you own a small business, they will want a lot of information on that.</p>

<p>Thanks again Thumper1 and everyone.</p>

<p>Wow, they also can ask about the retirement (in my case IRA) accounts !</p>

<p>The thought had occurred to me that perhaps I should set up a self-directed IRA into which I would "invest" my home residence, thereby shielding my home equity. However if one then must detail retirement account information, it doesn't seem that anything would be gained by doing that. Does anyone have some thoughts on this subject?</p>

<p>The FAFSA (federal methodology) is a published standard that is the same across all colleges and universities. Plug in your numbers, out pops an EFC, which will be the same whether you're applying to Harvard or Chicago State. FAFSA's underlying purpose is to see if you qualify for federal aid, and the rules for that are the same anywhere. What colleges do with that number in regard to their own aid varies all over the lot, but the number is the same. </p>

<p>The CSS PROFILE (institutional methodology) is entirely different. Different colleges ask for different information, and how each college assesses that information to come up with your magic number is completely up to them (and is generally a deep, dark secret).</p>

<p>So what a college does with the value of your house or your retirement accounts or your cars or the assets of your business or a noncustodial parent's income are mostly unpredictable, and will vary widely from school to school.</p>

<p>Thanks annasdad. The FAFSA presents no difficulties for us. The CSS Profile however with its more detailed questions and additional school specific questions regarding home equity and retirement account info has ... uh gotten my attention.</p>

<p>All the schools my son will be applying to (except for our state school which is a safety school) require the CSS Profile.</p>

<p>BTW, has anybody ever been asked when doing the CSS Profile what are the portfolio holdings of one's investment accounts ... retirement and non-retirement?</p>

<p>
[quote]
The thought had occurred to me that perhaps I should set up a self-directed IRA into which I would "invest" my home residence, thereby shielding my home equity.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>A couple of things...first any money put INTO a retirement account of any kind is counted for that year (in other words, if you are doing a 2012-2013 FAFSA, any money put into a retirement account in 2011...the tax year you will be using) is counted. </p>

<p>Second...there is significant speculation that colleges that ask for the balances IN your retirement accounts are doing so to SEE if you have made excessive contributions to retirment in lieu of actually saving something or having something to spend on college costs.</p>

<p>Profile tends to ask about everything you have so run some estimators before you start trying to think of ways to restructure. Also make sure your student has colleges on the list that you know you can afford.</p>

<p>
[quote]
BTW, has anybody ever been asked when doing the CSS Profile what are the portfolio holdings of one's investment accounts ... retirement and non-retirement?

[/quote]
</p>

<p>non-retirement investment accounts are usually counted as ASSETS on both the FAFSA and the Profile.</p>

<p>"non-retirement investment accounts are usually counted as ASSETS on both the FAFSA and the Profile. "</p>

<p>Yes I understand that non-retirement accounts are assets. I'm just curious whether they want to judge whether one's investment portfolio is too risky/aggressive, and if so, score that fact against you.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I'm just curious whether they want to judge whether one's investment portfolio is too risky/aggressive

[/quote]
</p>

<p>They don't ask you WHERE you have your investments...they ask the amount of the VALUE of these investments. In other words, they don't know whether your investments are in risky or aggressive investments. PLUS if you have an investment portfolio like ours, it's getting readjusted often....so the TYPES of funds would change.</p>

<p>OK, Thanks Thumper. ... they just ask the value of the accounts, not the portfolio details.</p>