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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Every School that Requires the CSS Profile

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Over 400 schools use the CSS Profile to determine their financial aid offers to prospective students. Among these are top colleges and the Ivy League, so if you plan on applying to some of the best schools in the nation, it’s in your best interest to learn what the CSS Profile is and to make sure that you know what to expect when completing it.


What is a CSS Profile?

The CSS Profile is a financial aid form administered by College Board, which is the same organization that administers the SAT and AP exams. The CSS Profile helps colleges to determine your financial need and award you with a financial aid package that can make college both affordable and accessible.


The CSS Profile asks for much of the same information as the FAFSA, including tax returns, W-2s, bank statements, and other records of income. Like the FAFSA, it will calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or what your family should expect to pay towards your college costs.


That said, the CSS Profile generally provides a more thorough picture of your household income to schools than the FAFSA does, allowing colleges to determine which types of institutional aid they can award in addition to any federal aid you might have received. There are even a few scholarship programs that use the CSS Profile to verify  your eligibility for their scholarships.


Unlike the FAFSA, you have to pay to send the CSS profile to schools, though you may qualify for a fee waiver if you received one for the SAT. Otherwise, sending the CSS profile costs $25 for the first school, and $16 for each additional one.


How Do Schools Use the CSS Profile?

Given that the CSS Profile and the FAFSA ask for a lot of the same information, and every school requires that you complete and submit the FAFSA, the CSS Profile might seem redundant. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While the FAFSA awards federal aid, the CSS Profile is used by schools to award institution-based aid.


Federal financial aid often won’t cover the cost of college alone, which is why receiving institutional aid is so important. For example, the maximum amount of a Pell grant this year is $6,095, but many schools have tuition that is double or even triple that amount. This is where institutional aid can help you cover the difference and lessen the financial burden for you and your family.


The two forms also provide different pictures of your household finances. For example, the FAFSA doesn’t ask for your expenses, just your income and household size which can result in a higher EFC. On the other hand, the CSS Profile asks you about your family’s medical or childcare costs, which might lower your EFC (and qualify you for more aid).


Colleges use both of these forms to create a complete picture of your financial situation and decide how best to supplement the federal aid you’re already receiving. Schools that accept the CSS Profile will award institutional need-based aid in the form of grants or scholarships. While these grants and scholarships range in value depending on the school, they all lessen your potential loan burden, and who can argue with less debt?


You can learn more about how the FAFSA and CSS Profile complement each other in our post FAFSA, CSS Profile, IDOC, Oh My: A Guide to Financial Aid.



List of Schools that Use the CSS Profile

To get you started, here’s a list of schools that use the CSS Profile to award financial aid.


American University

Amherst College

Bard College

Bates College

Baylor University

Bennington College

Bentley University

Berklee College of Music | Berklee

Boston College | BC

Boston University | BU

Bowdoin College

Brandeis University

Brown University

Bryn Mawr College

Bucknell University

California Institute of Technology | Caltech

Carleton College

Carnegie Mellon University | CMU

Case Western Reserve University

Catholic University of America | CUA

Claremont McKenna College | CMC

Clark University

Colby College

Colgate University

College of the Holy Cross | Holy Cross

College of William & Mary | William & Mary

College of Wooster

Colorado College

Columbia University

Connecticut College

Cornell University

Dartmouth College

Davidson College

Denison University

DePauw University

Dickinson College

Drexel University

Duke University

Elon University

Emerson College

Emory University

Fairfield University

Fordham University

Franklin and Marshall College | F&M

Furman University

George Washington University | GW

Georgetown University

Gettysburg College

Grinnell College

Hamilton College

Hampshire College

Harvard University

Harvey Mudd College | HMC

Haverford College

Hobart and William Smith Colleges | HWS

Ithaca College

Johns Hopkins University | JHU

Kenyon College

Lafayette College

Lawrence University

Lehigh University

Loyola University Maryland

Macalester College

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT

Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute

Mount Holyoke College

Muhlenberg College

New York University | NYU

Northeastern University

Northwestern University

Oberlin College

Occidental College

Pitzer College

Pomona College

Principia College

Providence College

Reed College

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | RPI

Rhode Island School of Design | RISD

Rhodes College

Rice University

Sacred Heart University | SHU

Santa Clara University

Scripps College

Skidmore College

Smith College

Southern Methodist University | SMU

St. Anselm College

St. Edward’s University

St. Olaf College

Stanford University

Stetson University

Stevens Institute of Technology

Stonehill College

Swarthmore College

Syracuse University

Texas Christian University | TCU

Trinity College

Trinity University

Tufts University

Tulane University

Union College (New York)

University of Chicago

University of Denver

University of Miami

University of Michigan

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | UNC

University of Notre Dame

University of Pennsylvania | UPenn

University of Richmond

University of Rochester

University of San Francisco | USF

University of Southern California | USC

University of Virginia | UVA

Vanderbilt University

Vassar College

Villanova University

Wake Forest University

Washington and Lee University

Wellesley College

Wheaton College (Massachusetts)

Whitman College

Williams College

Worcester Polytechnic Institute | WPI

Yale University

Wrapping it Up

Colleges are actively trying to attract diverse, high-achieving students to attend their campuses. Providing greater financial aid is one way these schools hope to make college accessible to everyone and to attract the best and the brightest.


At CollegeVine, we find that many students lose out on aid that they otherwise might have qualified for simply because they didn’t know where to look or what steps to take. We help students complete financial aid forms like the CSS Profile on time, and work with them to identify additional scholarships that they may qualify for. On average, our students earned $25,000 more in scholarships and were able to attend the school of their dreams. Find out if working with our financial aid tools is right for you!


Check out some of our other posts on financial aid:

How to Afford College: Exploring Your Options

Parents: 12 Must-Know College Financial Aid Terms

Which Colleges Award Automatic Scholarships Based on SAT Scores?


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.