CSS 101: Everything You Need to Know

Did you think you knew all you needed to know about applying for college financial aid but now they are adding yet another step to the process? 

  • What are the CSS profile and IDOC?
  • Who uses it?
  • Do I have to file one?

What is the CSS?

The CSS profile is a financial inventory given to students and their families to establish financial aid eligibility. This is not connected to the FAFSA and is a separate application through the College Board. This inventory is for non-federal student financial aid. The CSS profile gives students access to a large source of funding and scholarships that would otherwise be unavailable. 

When Does the CSS Open?

The profile opens on October 1st of each year. You will need to check with your college mentor and determine which schools use and require CSS profiles. At present, over 500 institutions utilize the CSS profile and make it a part of their financial aid application process, so it is mandatory for those applying for both merit and need-based university-specific financial aid. There is a fee for this service. 

What Do You Need for the CSS?

Applicants do not have to finish the application in one sitting and can save and update the application as they go. Many of the same financial information is required as on the FAFSA, but the CSS Profile does have some variations. Parents and students should expect to have the following documents available during the application process:

  • Tax returns for the previous two years
  • Mortgage information (The CSS profile does require information on your primary residence)
  • W-2 or other income records
  • Untaxed income 
  • Bank statements 
  • Balances for savings accounts, stocks, bonds, trusts, etc. 

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What Should You Do After You Submit Your CSS Profile

After you submit the CSS Profile, you can access your information on the dashboard. Here you will see the required next steps. Many times, applicants will then see a direct link to IDOC. IDOC is a secure website for uploading documents that pertain to the CSS profile. The entire CSS profile and IDOC are affiliated with the College Board. Students should be familiar with the College Board because it is also where they will sign up for the SAT. 

It is important to note that the FAFSA only requires the custodial parent to fill out the information the CSS Profile can be required by the custodial and the non-custodial parent in cases of separation and divorce. Please see the link below if you would like to read more about these circumstances. 

We know you may have specific questions and concerns, so we encourage you to reach out to Transizion for a free consultation. We can match you with an entire team of professionals, including a college financial aid consultant. 

We have included the links below for you to explore and gain more knowledge about financial aid, scholarships, and the like. 

CSS Links


List of Schools That Require the CSS Profile

CSS Profile Participating Institutions and Programs (collegeboard.org)

For Divorced or Separated Parents 



Apply for Financial Aid | Federal Student Aid


Finding & Applying to Scholarships: 10 Tips for Money Success | Transizion



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