Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAQs: Admitted Students

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How do I understand my award letter?

For assistance in understanding your financial aid award letter, please visit our Award Letter Guide.

May I request a re-evaluation of my financial aid package? (Admitted Students)

You can submit a request to have your financial aid award reconsidered for one of the following reasons:

  • Your family’s financial circumstances have changed since you originally submitted the financial aid application.
  • Your family’s financial circumstances are complex in nature, and you would like us to re-review the file with new information or clarification not previously submitted.
  • You received a need-based award with a different interpretation of your family’s financial circumstances than that provided by Columbia.

As appeals vary, and can be sensitive in nature, we recommend that you contact our office and speak with a financial aid officer prior to submitting a request. All requests for reconsideration should be submitted via e-mail to

Does Columbia match financial aid packages from other schools?

If the student receives a need-based offer with a different interpretation of the family’s financial circumstances, please fax us a copy of the offer, along with any additional pertinent information. Our office will review your request for reconsideration to determine if a change is appropriate.  Please note that we will not review any merit-based awards.

What is the difference between the Student Contribution and the Work-Expectation?

All incoming First-Year students have a Student Contribution (SC) of $2,400 as part of their financial aid award. The expectation is that the student will earn this amount in the summer preceding their first academic year. We do not mandate, however, that students work during the summer. Students and their families may cover this amount with outside scholarships, savings, parental assistance, and/or other financing options if they choose to.

The in-school work expectation is also part of the financial aid award.  Students earn this amount during the Fall and Spring semesters.  This amount typically goes towards non-billed expenses, such as books/supplies and other personal expenses.  This expectation is also not required, and may be covered by outside scholarships, savings, parental assistance, and/or other financing options.

In future years, students who obtain unpaid summer or semester internships may apply for additional grant to cover these expectations through the Work Exemption Program.


Is my award finalized?

Early Decision applicants- The financial aid award you received is an estimate based on prior year tax returns and estimates provided in the CSS Profile. Please visit our Apply for Aid section to see what steps you will take to complete your financial aid application with current year taxes, and the FAFSA. Over the summer you will receive a finalized award letter based on your updated information, and the final costs once approved by the Board of Trustees.

Regular Decision applicants- If your financial aid award was reviewed with current tax returns, then your financial aid eligibility is final. If your family applied using prior year information as current year were not filed yet, than you will receive a final award once the current information is submitted.

What if my financial aid application is still incomplete?

If your financial aid application was incomplete at the time of admission, you can still complete it and receive a financial aid evaluation. Please submit the missing items at your earliest convenience.  If you have any questions regarding any of the missing materials please contact our office.

Can I apply for financial aid after I am admitted?

US Citizens and Eligible Noncitizens – You can apply for financial aid after the recommended deadline, and financial aid eligibility will not be impacted by the time of application. We do recommend that you file by the deadline to assure you receive a timely eligibility letter.

International- You MUST have indicated that you were a financial aid applicant at the time of the admission application and qualified for need-based aid.  If you did not, you will not be eligible to apply for financial aid at any time during your enrollment unless your citizenship status changes.  

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

Outside scholarships can be applied to replace, dollar for dollar, the Student Contribution (SC) and Work-Expectation components of the financial aid award. If the total amount of outside scholarship funds exceeds the SC and Work-Expectation, it will then begin reducing the Columbia grant.  Outside scholarships will NOT reduce the Parent Contribution.

Additional information can be found on our outside scholarship page.  

Will my financial aid eligibility be the same all four years?

Students and families are asked to submit a financial aid application in each year the student attends. In general, if the family’s income and asset levels remain steady, the Parent Contribution (PC) will as well. Some common causes for change in future financial aid awards include:

  • Change in the number of students in the household enrolled in an undergraduate program
  • Changes to household income or assets
Do I have to maintain a minimum GPA?

There is no minimum GPA requirement to qualify for financial aid. However, the student must be maintaining satisfactory academic progress towards a Columbia degree and enrolled full-time.

What will my bill look like?

Your financial aid award is separate from your bill. The financial aid budget includes billed items (such as tuition & fees, housing and meal plan) and unbilled items (such as books, and personal expenses), which will not appear on the bill. Your Estimated Family Contribution (Parent Contribution plus Student Contribution) will not match your bill dollar for dollar.

Additional information about the E-Billing process is sent students during the summer.  The Fall semester E-Bill will be sent to students and authorized payers in mid-August and is due in early September. 

For an estimate of what your bill will look like, please utilize our Bill Estimator Tool.

Are there student/parent loans available?

Some students and families choose to finance a portion of their Parent Contribution (PC) or Student Contribution (SC). Information on different financing options is available on the Education Loans portion of our website.

Does Columbia offer a payment plan?

Yes.  Families may finance all or a portion of the bill through either a 5 month (one semester’s bill) or 10 month payment plan (full academic year).   More information on the payment plan is available on Student Financial Services' website.

How do students apply for a campus job?

There are two types of positions students may secure while enrolled: federal work-study or casual employment. Both types of positions are on-campus work; however they are funded by different sources. Eligibility for federal work-study is determined by the FAFSA. The financial aid award will indicate whether a student is eligible for federal work-study.  Federal work study jobs are posted online.

Students not eligible for federal work-study can obtain campus jobs, but would search for them in the casual-employment section. Casual employment campus jobs are posted on the LionSHARE portal.

Students are paid directly; their earnings are not applied toward the bill. Information on the requirements for student job paperwork as well as payroll is available online.  

How do I pay for books, travel, and personal expenses?

Student’s individual expenses for books, travel, and other personal expenses vary. In our academic year budget we use average figures to reflect the cost students and families can expect to incur. Many students will subsidize these expenses from summer and academic year earnings, savings, parental assistance, and other financing options.

Can I purchase a computer with my financial aid?

The cost of a computer is not part of the student budget.  Student loans are available to cover a computer that is purchased during the academic year. If you are interested in borrowing a loan to cover the cost of a computer please contact us at

If you have an outside scholarship that exceeds the amount of your Student Contribution (SC) and Work Expectation, the cost of the computer may be able to be covered by the scholarship.

Whether borrowing a loan or receiving an outside scholarship to cover the cost, you will be asked to provide a receipt of the purchase.

Do I have to pay the Health Service fee if I am covered by my parents’ medical insurance?

Yes.  The Health Service Fee is a mandatory fee to all students residing on campus, and enables students access to the services offered by Columbia’s Health Services (the on-campus infirmary).

Please note that this fee is separate from the Student Health Insurance cost, which can be waived for students who are otherwise covered.

For additional information please visit the Health Services site:

What is Federal Verification?

Federal Verification is a process which requires our office to verify the information provided on the FAFSA. To do this, families must provide documentation to corroborate that the personal and tax information reported on the FAFSA matches the tax returns submitted to the IRS. Additional information on this process is available on our verification page.

PLEASE NOTE:  Our office will work with all newly admitted students who enroll to collect required documentation during the summer for the Federal Verification process.