Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

Award Letter Guide

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Each financial aid package is unique to the student’s specific circumstances. The sample award letter is intended to provide general information about the common components of a first-year Columbia financial aid award. The following information is based on the current 2015-2016 Budget.

Click on each marked item for details about that part of the award letter.

If you have any questions about this sample award letter, please contact our office to speak with a Financial Aid Officer.

image/svg+xml Sample Source: Fall Spring Total ------- ------- ------- Total Awards: 25,930 25,930 51,860 1,545 1,545 3,090 Federal Work Study/Student Employment 24,385 24,385 48,770 Grants To meet your need, Columbia University offers you the following assistance: Resources Amount --------- Total Resources 17,747 Need (Budget - Resources) 51,860 15,347 Parental Contribution 2,400 Student Contribution Budget Category Amount Books & Supplies 1,200 0 Travel 0 Health Insurance Fee Personal Expenses 2,024 --------- 950 Health Service Fee 1,524 Student Life Fee 7,696 5,164 Room Board 69,607 Budget Totals 418 Orientation Fee 105 Transcript Fee 50,526 Tuition March 27, 2015 Mr. Roaree Lion Columbia Student ID#: C001234567 Dear Roaree: After careful evaluation of the financial aid application materials you have submitted, we are pleased to present the following financial aid award for the 2015-2016 academic year. Your need was calculated using the 2015-2016 Budget and Estimated Resources detailed below.

Health Service Fee

The mandatory fee for on-campus services and support offered by Health Services at Columbia. This is different from the Medical Insurance Plan Premium, which may be waived upon documentation of comparable coverage.

Cost of Attendance

The standard 2015-2016 budget for undergraduate students at Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, as determined for the purpose of establishing financial need. It includes mandatory billed and estimated unbilled educational expenses. Actual expenses may vary.

Parent Contribution

A calculation of what parents can afford to absorb in educational costs, reflecting our analysis of the information provided on the financial aid application. Parents may choose to provide their contribution from savings, from current income, from future income (through borrowing) or from a combination of these options.

Transcript Fee

A one-time fee for entering students in their first term, entitling them to transcripts at no additional charge.

Orientation Fee

A mandatory one-time fee for entering students in their first term, covering the costs of mandatory Orientation programming.

Student Life Details

A mandatory fee supporting student activities, access to the facilities at the Dodge Physical Fitness Center and Lerner Hall, and library and computer network privileges.

Room & Board

The standard budget for room and board for all undergraduate students. The billed charges for all first-year room and board combinations equal this amount. For upperclassmen, the billed room and board charges will be based on the actual housing and meal plans that they select. Students who choose room and board combinations that exceed this standard budget will not receive additional Columbia Grant; they must pay for the additional cost out of pocket or through a borrowed amount. The room and board budget does not change for students living off-campus. However, for students living with relatives and commuting to Columbia, the budget will be adjusted.

Student Contribution

The amount students are expected to earn for their college expenses by working during the summer. The standard student contribution increases slightly each year in college. In addition, students who have savings or other assets will be expected to contribute 25% of those assets toward their college expenses for the upcoming year.


A combination of institutional, federal and/or state grants that are awarded based on a student’s financial need; grants do not need to be repaid. Students may receive Columbia University Grant, New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), Federal Pell, Federal SEOG, and/or other grants.

Outside Scholarship

Many Columbia students receive awards from various organizations, including merit-based scholarships, employer tuition benefits, and ROTC and Veteran’s Benefits (Post-911 GI Bill benefits). These scholarships can be used to reduce the Student Contribution and Student Employment portions of the financial aid award. Scholarships exceeding the total of the SC and Student Employment will reduce the Columbia Grant by the excess amount. Scholarships may not be used to reduce or pay the Parent Contribution.

Federal Work Study/Student Employment

The amount we expect students will contribute toward their college costs from term-time work during the academic year. This also may be referred to as self-help, casual work, or work expectation. Jobs are not assigned. Earnings will not be applied as a credit to the Student Account Statement; instead, the biweekly paycheck is paid directly to the student for the amount of hours worked. (typically 10-12 hours per week).

Health Insurance Fee

Students will be automatically enrolled in the Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan unless they are able to provide proof of comparable private medical insurance. Students can waive the Columbia Medical Insurance online; waivers must be submitted each academic year.


The estimated cost of one roundtrip per semester from home to campus. This is set at an average amount determined by the student’s home state/country.


All full-time undergraduate students are charged a flat tuition rate that is not adjusted by the number of points a student is enrolled in.