Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

Frequently Asked Questions

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In addition to these frequently asked questions, we encourage you to explore our website to learn more about our financial aid policies and how you can apply for aid.  We are here to work with you and your family in developing a plan to pay for college at Columbia University.  Students and parents may review available financing options.  Financial Aid Officers are also here to answer any questions prospective, newly admitted, or current students/parents may have.    

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.

How do I report my family’s special circumstances?

Additional information you would like us to review with your application can be reported in the Explanations section of the CSS Profile. You can also contact us at ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu with an explanation of your individual circumstances. A financial aid officer will review the information and reach out to you with any needed follow-up.

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.

How do I track my financial aid application?

The application tracking tool is available during specific windows of time for each application cycle. The following site contains the link to the tracking page, as well as the dates when it is available:

https://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/forms/track

Forms and documents will not appear immediately following submission on the Online Financial Aid System; please allow for processing time of at least 3-5 business days (and 5-8 business days for documents submitted to IDOC).

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 (available in July).

Should I apply Early Decision or Regular Decision?

Early Decision is a binding process where students commit to attend Columbia should they be admitted. Students applying through the Early Decision process ought to be confident that Columbia is their desired school of choice. If the student and family feel that financial aid will be a significant factor in whether or not the student can attend, we strongly recommend the family researches the financial aid process prior to applying, and consider applying Regular Decision in order to preserve the option of comparing financial aid decisions from multiple schools.

Please use the Net Price Calculator at Columbia and other preferred schools to estimate your financial aid eligibility, and speak with a financial aid officer to discuss any questions you may have.

When will I receive my financial aid eligibility letter?

Admitted students who completed their financial aid application by the recommended deadline should receive a financial aid eligibility letter along with the letter of admission. Applications completed after the deadline will be reviewed on a rolling basis. 

Application timelines can be found on our website:  http://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/apply.  

Are there student/parent loans available?

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

Are there any other funding opportunities?

Students may be funded by their academic department.  Any students who receive these funds are notified at the time of admission.  There is no separate application process.  Students may also search for available scholarships and fellowships online:  http://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/other-funding

What if I change the number of credits I am taking?

Loan eligibility is directly tied to the number of credits you are enrolled in each semester.  If you add or drop a class after your loans have been processed, our office will make adjustments as appropriate based on your new loan eligibility.  Students who drop below half-time will no longer be eligible for federal student loans.

Should I borrow Federal Loans or Private Loans?

Federal loans have a variety of repayment options, low fees and fixed interest rates for the life of the loan.  Private loans may have lower interest rates, but these rates are often not fixed, and fees can vary.  It is up to each borrow to choose the loan that makes the most sense for their individual needs.  We recommend speaking with a Financial Aid Officer if you have questions prior to borrowing.

How much should I borrow?

Students may borrow up to the full cost of attendance in student loans.  However, we recommend only borrowing what you need: this may be only to cover billed expenses or it may be to cover both billed and non-billed expenses.  If you have questions about your borrowing need, please contact our office to speak with a Financial Aid Officer.  Additionally if students receive any type of other funding, please note your loan eligibility will change.  

Are there loans for international students?

International students may seek private lenders for available education loans.  Some lenders may require a U.S. co-signer.  Columbia offers a suggested lender list online, but students may choose a lender not on that list as well.

Where can I see my bill?

Students may view their bill online through their SSOL account

Can I borrow loans to cover non-billed items like rent, books and personal expenses?

Yes, students may borrow up to the full cost of attendance.  This includes both billed and non-billed expenses.  All loans will first disburse to the student account.  Once all charges are paid, any excess loan funds will be refunded to the student via direct deposit or paper check.  

How do I meet with a Financial Aid Officer?

We have walk-in hours each day from 9:30-4:30pm, except Tuesday from 9:30-2:30pm.  Pre-scheduled appointments are not required.  Officers are also available by phone at 212-854-3711.

How do I defer my undergraduate loan repayment?

Columbia University will send your enrollment status to the National Student Loan Clearinghouse after the add/drop period each semester.  If you have loans from lenders who do not work with this clearinghouse, you may request a certificate of enrollment online through SSOL to submit to your lender.

Can I apply after the financial aid deadline?

US Citizens and Eligible Noncitizens – You can apply for financial aid after the recommended deadline, without penalty. We do recommend that you file by the deadline to assure you receive a timely eligibility letter.

International students – 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.  

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 refunds work?

In cases where a student’s financial aid overpays the billed charges, and a surplus is formed, this credit will be refunded to the student via check or direct deposit. To set up direct deposit, the student should log into Student Services Online (SSOL) and click on the Refund option.

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