Myths about Financial Aid


“Does it pay to save? Won’t families who save receive less financial aid than those who did not save. In the end, will I be punished for saving?”

The financial aid formula is primarily income driven; while assets are taken into consideration, their impact on the parent contribution is relatively small. If your family has saved, then you have made sacrifices on the front end and will have more options when it comes to how you will pay for college. Families who have not saved may have a somewhat smaller parent contribution but may not be able to pay all or part of the parent contribution with savings and as a result may need to borrow a portion of it.

Back to top

“Will I receive the same amount of financial aid for all four years or is this a one-time only deal?”

At Columbia, we are committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of all admitted applicants and we continue to meet 100% of that need for all four years of study.

Exception for Transfer and Combined Plan students

Back to top

“Will I will receive less or more financial aid if I apply early decision versus regular decision?”

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering award need-based financial aid to all admitted first-year students regardless of when they are admitted. The decision-making process in financial aid is the same for both Early Decision and Regular Decision. Some families may think that their chances for financial aid may be better or worse when applying early, or that they should not ask for financial aid in the Early Decision process in fear that their chances of receiving an admission offer is compromised. Please be assured that we will meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need, regardless of whether you were admitted early decision or regular decision.

Back to top

“Can I really afford to go to Columbia?”

We do not want the price of attending college to deter you from applying for admission. At Columbia we are able to offer over $100 million of financial aid to our students each year. We understand that paying for college is a concern for most families, and as a result we have worked hard to make it affordable for you to attend. For many students, Columbia can be as affordable, if not more affordable, than a state school education

Please read our Press Release and related Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about our enhanced need-based financial aid policies.

Our financial aid advisors will work with you and your family throughout the financial aid process to ensure that we arrive at a contribution that takes all of your circumstances into consideration. For an estimate of the financial aid for which you may qualify, visit our Net Price Calculator.

Back to top

“Do middle income families qualify for financial aid at Columbia?”

The current Columbia students we were able to offer financial aid awards to during the current academic year had family incomes that ranged from $1 to over $200,000. The highest percentage of aid recipients had family incomes in the range of $1 to $89,999.

The median income for Columbia Grant recipients is ~$88,850. This means that half the families receiving CU Grant have incomes below $88,850 and half have yearly incomes above $88,850.

Back to top

“There really are merit scholarships at Columbia but nobody talks about it.”

There are no merit scholarships at Columbia as all of our financial aid is strictly need-based. While we hope you do well in your classes, there is no GPA requirement attached to your Columbia University Grant.

The Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program is a need-based scholarship program which attaches the name of a specific named scholarship fund to your Columbia University Grant. Receiving an award is an honor given in recognition of your accomplishments and it does not change the amount of Columbia University Grant in your financial aid package.

Back to top

“On my admissions application I shouldn’t say that I’m applying for aid.”

If you are applying for financial aid you should indicate this on the admission application as that starts a financial aid file which enables the Office of Financial Aid & Educational Financing to begin tracking your financial aid forms. Indicating on the admission application that you are applying for financial aid does not impact the admission decision whatsoever as Columbia is committed to our need-blind policy.

International / Non-Domestic Students: Columbia is not need-blind for international / non-domestic students. However, if you are admitted, and you demonstrate financial need, Columbia will meet your full need for all four years of study. If you plan on applying for financial aid at anytime during your fours years at Columbia, you must do so at the time you apply for admission.

Transfer Students: Columbia is need blind when admitting transfer students. However, Columbia has a limited financial aid budget for transfer students. As a result, we are unable to meet the full need of all transfer admits. All complete applications at the time of Admission will be considered for financial aid.

Back to top