Why did you choose Columbia?
I was going through several books for suggestions of a couple of universities. Since I was interested in engineering, I noticed Columbia Engineering is unique. First the Gateway Class and service projects they do are cool. For me, I didn’t find anything else that matched that kind of engineering education with the backdrop of a liberal arts core.
What advice about financial aid do you wish someone had given you/your family when you were in high school?
My advice: find a school that will give you what you need. That’s the great thing about Columbia. Other schools have merit-based scholarships, but sometimes they won’t cover a family’s entire need, so it makes need-based Financial Aid the better options. My advice is to apply to need-based programs like Columbia’s.
What was your reaction to your award letter?
My full need was met which was amazing. The other exciting thing was that it was a grant: no one to pay back after college! No debt! Amazing! I think there’s less pressure since it’s not a loan but a grant. Less pressure on trying to find a high-paying job after I graduate just to be able to back the money. Freedom and liberty to do what I want to do without having to worry about paying it back. I can pursue the major I really want. The reality is that there are different income scales for careers in different majors, and now I don’t have to worry about that.
Tell us about your experiences with the Columbia financial aid staff.
I didn’t expect it. How can I put it? I didn’t think he was going to be able to know me so well. I thought he would say “I’m working with lots of students, and this is what we can give you, and if you don’t like it go elsewhere.” But that’s not what happened. Especially at the time when I appealed for more financial aid, he took time with me and made sure I got what was appropriate to my need. I was impressed by that.
The advisors are so helpful to those who are applying, they’re glad to help you find out more about financial aid. I came into talk to him about my account, and to borrow a laptop loan. I got all the help I need and actually much more assistance than I had expected.
There are some families that think having Financial Aid shows they cannot do it themselves and that they are embarrassed that they cannot provide for their children. Being embarrassed shuts a lot of doors, there’s no point in it. Families need to acknowledge that you might need aid and just apply for it. Financial aid is there for you—they’ll help you.