What is the best way to answer the question about parental financial support on the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE?

Question:

One of the questions on the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE asks about how much financial support my parents might provide when I start college next fall. What is the best way to answer this question?

Answer:

The College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® is an online application that collects information used by almost 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs to award financial aid from sources outside of the federal government.

The PROFILE may be customized by each college and there is no standard for how the colleges use the answers submitted on the PROFILE. In particular, there are several different ways that colleges may use the answer to the PROFILE question about financial support for college from the student’s parents.

Some colleges compare the answer to this question to the PROFILE form’s calculation of the parents’ ability to pay for college and use whichever figure is greater.

Some colleges even add the answer to this question to the PROFILE form’s calculation of the parents’ ability to pay for college.

This is in contrast to the FAFSA, which ignores cash support received by a dependent student from his or her custodial parent(s) and does not ask how much money the parents plan on contributing to the student’s college education.

Given that the colleges do not disclose the purpose of the parental support question or how they use the answer to this question, the safest answer is to provide a nominal figure. It is recommended to answer no less than $1,000 as parental support.

The amount should also be consistent with amounts claimed through higher education tax credits on the previous year’s federal income tax returns.