Latest questions from parents

by | Dec 9, 2020

What is the CSS Profile, and why do colleges need it in addition to FAFSA?

The CSS Profile is an online application that collects information used by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award non-federal aid. (For federal aid, you must complete the FAFSA, available Oct. 1 at Some colleges may require the CSS Profile from both biological/adoptive parents in cases of divorce or separation. 

Why do some colleges require two forms? FAFSA will provide information based on the latest tax returns filed by the family. The CSS offers valuable information to the financial aid office to accurately evaluate the family’s financial information. Expenses like trips, home renovations, cars, second homes, and the projected expenses for the upcoming year will all be recorded in the CSS profile. Look up the college’s deadline to present financial aid information (on the website’s financial aid page). The CSS profile “lives” in the College Board website.

How many colleges would you recommend on a college list?

My students usually apply to 9 or 10 colleges. I say “usually” because some students apply to uber-competitive programs (Conservatories, for example), and their list will be longer. It is very important that the college list is:

  1. Balanced! We want reaches (20-25% chance), targets (50%), and likelies (70-75%) for that student. Note that this is not based on the admission rate but rather on the student we are working with.
  2. A good fit for the student. Every college on that list should be a place where the student will be happy and thrive academically and socially. It should be a financial fit too…
  3. Based on the criteria of the student and the family. Some of the variables to consider are location, size, type of curriculum, access to professors, special programs, research opportunities, alumni network, and about 50 other variables!

How do I decide on a college if I have never been able to visit?

Colleges had an online presence pre-COVID. However, since March of 2020, colleges have had to find ways to explain (and differentiate!) themselves to prospective students. Hence, we now have various videos, interactive sessions, and recordings from students to “visit” almost any college campus online. When I work with students on their college list, I teach them to “read between the lines” on these websites to understand the colleges’ values and mission. For example: how are the academic programs structured, are majors interdisciplinary? Do students seem to study across different schools? Are volunteering and social action a big part of student life? What are the demographics like on campus? Besides, we look at blogs and testimonials from current students or recent graduates and often make connections with those who have first-hand experience with the college. They are the best source of information!

More questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil



Weil College Advising

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