Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAQs: Prospective Students

Home / FAQs / Prospective Students / Frequently Asked Questions / FAQs: Prospective Students
What percentage of Columbia students receive financial aid?

Approximately 50% of Columbia undergraduates receive some sort of financial assistance. In addition, about 78% of first-year students applying for financial aid for the 2013-2014 year received a need-based financial aid award.

Does Columbia offer merit scholarships?

There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships at Columbia as all of our institutional financial aid is need-based. Our students are often the recipients of merit-based scholarships from outside organizations (state grants/scholarships, local/national merit-based awards, etc.); however, no merit-based aid is offered directly from Columbia University.

Prospective Students & Families: May I appeal a financial aid package if admitted?

YES, if your family’s financial circumstances changed after you submitted your financial aid application.
YES, if you have complicated circumstances, and you would like us to take a second look at how we interpreted your family’s financial situation.
YES, if another need-based school has provided you a different interpretation of your family’s financial circumstances. 
NO, if your sole reason for the appeal is that you are asking us to consider merit-based offers from other schools.

All appeals should be submitted in writing and you may do so at any time during the year. If you would like to discuss your award, please call the Office of Financial Aid and Educational Financing to speak with one of our financial aid advisors: 212-854-3711.

Can families apply for financial aid in future years if they do not apply the first year?

Yes. A family that experiences a change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time. For example, it is not uncommon for a family to suffer a job loss or illness or for a younger sibling to begin attending college. Please note that institutional aid will usually be awarded only in cases that involve an involuntary change in circumstances. Parents who decide to retire early or to invest in a business start-up may not be awarded institutional aid. It is a good idea to include a letter describing your family’s change in circumstances with any new financial aid application.

Please note: international / non-domestic students and transfer students who were admitted without institutional financial aid are not eligible for institutional financial aid even if there is a change in circumstances.

Does Columbia offer scholarships and if so, how many?

Columbia College and the undergraduate division of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science provide need-based financial aid to students, awarding grants, loans and on-campus work-study jobs to applicants on the basis of their family’s financial circumstances. There is no limit on the number of students who receive need-based financial aid as each application is considered individually. In 2013-2014 the average financial aid package was $41,207.

How much financial aid is available for transfer students?

Columbia admits transfer students who are US Citizens or eligible non-citizens on a need blind basis. Columbia is need-aware for international transfer applicants.  Columbia guarantees to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted transfer students.  International students must be awarded financial aid at the time of admission in order to qualify in subsequent years.  

Is financial aid available for international/non-domestic students?

Though Columbia is not need-blind in its admission of international / non-domestic students, if you are admitted as a first year student, then we will meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need. If you plan on applying for financial at any point during your four years of study then you must apply for financial aid at the time you apply for admission.

Will my chances for admission be affected if I apply for financial aid?

All applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or students granted refugee visas by the United States are read in a need-blind manner, no matter where they attend school or where they reside. The term “need-blind” means financial need has no bearing on the admissions decision.

All other applicants are evaluated in a need-aware manner, which means that the admissions committee takes into consideration how much financial aid a student requires when rendering an admissions decision. Columbia admits a large number of international / non-domestic students who receive a substantial amount of financial aid.

Can I be released from my Early Decision contract because of my financial aid package?

It is extremely rare for a family to ask to be released from the Early Decision commitment for financial reasons. However, on occasion possibly due to a lack of understanding of need-based aid (i.e., they were expecting merit-based aid, they did not submit complete information when using a financial aid estimator, etc) families have requested to be released from their Early Decision contract.

It is the family’s determination that they cannot afford to pay for a Columbia education that allows them to be released from the binding early decision admission offer. The family must first speak with a financial aid officer, before the release is granted. Ultimately, it is the family’s decision whether or not they feel capable of accepting the need-based Columbia financial aid award.

Those who do opt out of their Early Decision contract are released to pursue lower-cost school options, such as state schools and/or schools that award merit aid. The admission offer at Columbia is then cancelled. A candidate who declines Columbia’s Early Decision offer will not be allowed to reconsider Columbia’s financial aid estimate during the spring Regular Decision cycle and will not be able to reinstate the original offer of admission.

Does Columbia match financial aid packages from other schools?

It is not our policy to automatically match other offers, and we do not negotiate financial aid awards. We will not match offers from institutions that offer merit-based awards. However, if you fax us a copy of another need-based offer, we will review your application to determine if a change is appropriate. We do this because different schools may have different information at the time the application was evaluated. Or perhaps your circumstances are complex and have been interpreted differently by another school. The new documentation you provide our office may give us a better understanding of your family’s financial circumstances.

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

The scholarships that students receive from outside sources become part of the financial aid award and enable students to reduce the Student Contribution and Work Study/Student Employment portions of the financial aid package.  Only after the Student Contribution and work study have been completely eliminated will scholarships begin to reduce any Columbia Grant students may have received.

PLEASE NOTE: Outside Scholarships/outside funding may NOT reduce the Parent Contribution.

Tuition benefits from your/your family’s employer are applied to your need-based financial aid award as any other outside scholarship/outside funding (see above paragraph).

ROTC and Veteran’s Benefits: Scholarships received through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and/or veteran’s benefits/Post-9-11 GI Bill benefits are applied to your need-based financial aid award in the same manner as any other outside scholarships/outside funding (see above paragraph). For further information about ROTC at Columbia, please visit http://www.columbia.edu/cu/rotc/.

For information, please see our Outside Scholarships page.

Does Columbia offer scholarships and if so, how many?

Columbia College and the undergraduate division of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science provide need-based financial aid to students, awarding grants, loans and on-campus work-study jobs to applicants on the basis of their family’s financial circumstances. There is no limit on the number of students who receive need-based financial aid as each application is considered individually. In 2013-2014 the average financial aid package was $41,207.