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.    

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 apply for the New York State TAP?

The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are a New York State resident, the federal processor will automatically send your FAFSA information to New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC). HESC will then send you a personalized TAP application for your signature. You must sign this form and return it to HESC in order to receive your TAP award.

How do I waive the medical insurance if I am already covered?

All full-time students are by default enrolled in the Gold level of the Columbia Plan. To request a waiver from default enrollment, you must submit a request online before September 19 (January 30 for new Spring enrollment or June 12 for new full-time Summer trimester students). All requests are considered but approval is not guaranteed.  A waiver must be submitted for each year of enrollment at Columbia.  Information on waiving the medical insurance fee is available on the Health Services website. 

How do my housing and meal plan choices impact my financial aid package?

The financial aid budget includes standard costs for room and board. These costs correspond directly to the standard first year charges: the least expensive housing option, and the most expensive meal-plan option. Upperclassmen are able to choose among different housing and meal-plan options. In order to remain within the financial aid budget, students traditionally choose to enroll in a similar combination to the standard first-year options (less expensive housing options, with more expensive meal plans), or to enroll in a comparable combination (more expensive housing with less expensive meal plans options). Many of the more expensive housing choices have individual shared kitchen facilities, resulting in students electing smaller meal plans or no meal plan, as they rely more on cooking for themselves. The less expensive housing options traditionally have kitchens in the building, but less individual access, and so many students will typically continue to rely on a larger meal plan.

Please note that students can choose whatever combination of housing and meal plan they wish, however a more expensive combination may result in an additional out-of-pocket cost. Financial aid awards are NOT adjusted for individual housing and meal plan selections.

We recommend that students speak with a financial aid officer if they have any questions on this topic prior to making their housing and meal plan selections.

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.

How does financial aid work with Study Abroad?

Financial aid generally can be used to help cover the expenses of a study abroad program that grants academic credit during the Fall or Spring semesters.  As part of the application process for studying abroad, the Office for Global Programs (OGP) requires students to meet with a financial aid officer to discuss the impact on the financial aid award. Please bring in the OGP form to meet with an officer during any of our walk-in hours.

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:

How will my aid change if I become a Resident Advisor (RA)?

The financial aid budget traditionally includes an amount to account for the cost of housing. As an RA, you will not be charged for housing. Your financial aid award will be adjusted to reflect the lower charges. The award will be simultaneously adjusted to reduce the Student Contribution (SC) and Fall/Spring semester work-expectation.

Please note that if you have any outside scholarships already reducing the SC and/or Work Expectation, this may impact the RA benefit.

For any questions on the direct impact on your award we recommend you meet with a financial aid officer during walk-in hours.

When do I file the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is available beginning January 1, 2016.  It is submitted online and requires both the student and parent to create an FSA ID, if they do not already have one.  We strongly encourage families to complete the FAFSA after they file their 2015 taxes, so that they may utlize the Data Retrieval Tool.  

Early Decision:  The FAFSA is due November 15, 2016.

Regular Decision:  The FAFSA is due February 15, 2016.

Transfer/Combined Plan:  The FAFSA is due March 1, 2016.

Continuing Students:  The FAFSA is due May 5, 2016.

What is an FSA ID, and will I need it to complete the FAFSA?

The FSA ID allows students and parents to identify themselves electronically to access FSA Web sites. An FSA ID is made up of a username and password and can be used to log into FAFSA on the Web.

While you are not required to have an FSA ID to complete and submit a FAFSA application, it is the fastest way to sign your application and have it processed. It is also the only way to access or correct your information online, or to pre-fill a FAFSA application with information from your previous year’s FAFSA.

If you do not have an FSA ID, you can create one on the following page:

If you have an FSA ID but do not remember your username, click Forgot Username.

If you have an FSA ID but do not remember your password, click Forgot Password.

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.  

How do I log in to financial aid document tracking?

Your username will be your Columbia Applicant ID, beginning with C00. Your initial password will be your date of birth in MMDDYYYY format.

I tried to log in and received "error code IA". What should I do?

If you receive the error message 'Code IA' when attempting to log in as a first-time user, please try logging in as a returning user.

If you are still unable to log in after trying to log in as both a first-time user and a returning user, please contact our office to have your password reset.

What if all of my financial aid materials are not received by the deadline?

We accept documents after the  deadline without penalty.  Please allow up to 10 business days for documents to be processed after you have submitted them to IDOC or Columbia. We ask that you do not resubmit documents as duplicate materials will delay processing.