Red Color Block

How do I file my FAFSA and CSS Profile?

Brad Lindberg headshot

Brad Lindberg
Associate Vice President of Institutional Initiatives and Enrollment

Brad Lindberg

How Do I File the FAFSA and CSS Profile?

Hello! My name is Brad Lindberg — I’m the associate vice president of institutional initiatives and enrollment at Grinnell College.

Applying for financial aid can seem daunting at times, especially if you haven’t done it before.

But I’m going to share a few easy steps you can take to get through the process successfully.

First, let me tell you this — every college is different. Just because one college requires a form doesn’t mean another is going to require it as well. So please pay careful attention to the requirements for each college you’re considering. You can find all the information you need on the college websites.

The main form you’re going to need to apply for need-based financial aid is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — commonly referred to as the FAFSA. You can complete the FAFSA online.

Secrets of the FAFSA, Revealed!

Now, it’s important to know that your parent or guardians will need to submit information as well. The first thing you should do is create what’s called an FSA ID. You can go to the FAFSA website and create that now and put it somewhere safe to use when you’re applying for financial aid.

It’s especially important to pay attention to deadlines. Aid might be available or unavailable based upon submitting your application prior to the deadline for applications. Again, each college is different, so pay attention to the deadlines publish on those websites.

Now Complete the CSS Profile

Some of the colleges you’re interested in might require more than the FAFSA. Here at Grinnell, for example, we ask for three things from you: first is the FAFSA. Second, we require something called the CSS Profile. About 200 institutions across the country use the CSS Profile to determine your eligibility for need-based financial aid — especially grants from the college or university. Oh, and the third thing? I’ll get to that in a moment.

To complete the CSS Profile, grab your parents yet again, and visit the CSS website. Again, you’ll need to register, but if you’ve taken the PSAT, the SAT, or even an AP test, you might already have a College Board ID, so be sure to pay attention to that.

The FAFSA and the CSS Profile seem similar, and they are. You should plan on sitting down with your parents or guardians for about an hour to complete each of those forms.

And the third thing we ask for at Grinnell? It’s your parents’ tax information. It’s important to go to the website of any college you’re considering to ensure that you have tax forms for the appropriate year available to complete both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile.

Some states also offer help completing the FAFSA. For instance, here in Iowa, you can visit the Iowa College Aid website and make an appointment with a professional who will walk you through the process. You’ll still need to create your FSA ID and bring all your family’s financial and tax information. It’s worth checking out if you’d like a little extra help.

The last piece of advice I would give you is to sit down with your parents with all the information on hand to complete the forms in one sitting. While it might seem difficult, it’s really something you can do without much problem.

More tips from the experts

Joe Bagnoli

What does it mean to be "need blind" and meet 100% of need?

Joe Bagnoli
Vice President for Enrollment, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Sarah M. White, Director of Admission

What does it mean for a college to be “no loan”?

Sarah M. White
Director of Admission

Grace Robertson-Lloyd ’16

Should I submit standardized test scores at a test-optional college?

Grace Robertson-Lloyd ’16
Senior Assistant Director of Admission and Coordinator of Virtual Recruitment

We use cookies to enable essential services and functionality on our site, enhance your user experience, provide better service through personalized content, collect data on how visitors interact with our site, and enable advertising services.

To accept the use of cookies and continue on to the site, click "I Agree." For more information about our use of cookies and how to opt out, please refer to our website privacy policy.