Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAQs: Prospective Students

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Does Columbia offer scholarships?

All financial aid administered by our office is need-based. There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships awarded to students at Columbia College and the undergraduate division of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Students are welcome to pursue outside scholarship opportunities independently.

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

For all applicants who are US Citizens, Eligible Noncitizens or students living in the US without legal citizenship or residency, the admissions process is need-blind, meaning that applying for financial aid will have no bearing on the admission decision.

International students are evaluated in a need-aware process, meaning that among the many criteria taken into consideration in rendering an admissions decision, the student’s status as a financial aid applicant is also considered.

Is financial aid available for international students?

Yes. Columbia meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for international students admitted as first-years and transfers pursuing their first degree. Please be aware that Columbia is need-aware in its admission of international students. International applicants must apply for and demonstrate financial need at the time of admission. If you plan on applying for financial at any point during your four years of study then you must indicate that you are a financial aid applicant on your admissions application. If you do not, you will not be eligible to apply for financial aid at any time during your enrollment unless your citizenship status changes.

How much financial aid is available for transfer students?

Financial aid for transfer students is need-based, and determined based on a financial aid analysis, in the same manner as for incoming first-year students. We guarantee to meet full demonstrated financial need for transfer students pursuing their first degree. Combined Plan applicants, please see Combined Plan information.

What percentage of Columbia students receive financial aid?

Approximately 50% of undergraduate students in Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences receive financial aid.

Does Columbia have financial aid policies to support low-income students?

Financial aid is awarded to students and families of many income levels; however we do have specific financial aid initiatives designed to make Columbia accessible to students from low-income households.

How is financial aid eligibility calculated?

Because our financial aid program is need based, we determine financial aid eligibility by evaluating each family’s ability to pay for education costs. Our office conducts a thorough review of each applicant’s financial information every year, and we take many factors into consideration during our analysis. Review our Determining Eligibility page for more information about the factors we consider.

What does total family income include?

We calculate a family’s total income by adding all sources of income, including any untaxed income (e.g., tax-deferred pension contributions, social security benefits, child support received, tax exempt interest). In cases of divorced or separated families, the incomes from both parents are considered to determine the total family income.

What assets are factored in when determining financial aid eligibility?

Parents’ assets include cash, savings, investments, home equity, other real estate equity, and business equity. We do not include the value of retirement assets in our analysis. We do provide enhanced financial aid eligibility for low-income families with typical assets. For families with an income up to $100,000, we consider typical assets to be approximately up to $250,000.

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

Outside scholarships replace the Student Contribution (SC) and Work-Expectation components of the financial aid award. For example, if you are awarded a $5,000 outside scholarship, your SC and Work Study/Student Employment could be significantly reduced or eliminated. If the total amount of outside scholarship funds exceeds this amount, it will then begin to replace the Columbia grant. Outside scholarships will not reduce the Parent Contribution.

Additional information can be found on our outside scholarship

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

U.S. citizens, eligible noncitizens and students residing in the United States without legal citizenship or residency – You may apply for financial aid in future years. This request must come in writing from the student directly.

International students – You must have indicated that you were a financial aid applicant at the time of your 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 can I request a fee waiver for the CSS Profile?

The CSS Profile provides fee waivers to qualifying domestic students who are first-time, first-year, low-income applicants. Eligibility for fee waivers is automatically assessed at the time you complete the CSS Profile. Eligible applicants may apply to an unlimited number of schools free of charge. Columbia does not offer additional fee waivers to domestic students.

Low-income International students wishing to request a CSS Profile fee waiver should contact

How do I file corrections to the CSS Profile?

You can make online corrections to your information via the link on your CSS Profile dashboard.

What is IDOC?

IDOC is the College Board’s document management system. Tax returns and other documents can be uploaded electronically or mailed to IDOC. Students completing the CSS Profile will be sent an e-mail with instructions on submitting information. Additional information is available on their website:

Note: Certain populations of students are asked to send documents directly to Columbia. Please follow the submission instructions for your applicant type using our How to Apply tool.

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.

Can families who live outside of the United States use the Net Price Calculator Tool?

Our Net Price Calculator has been designed for families living in the US; therefore this calculator will not be able to provide an accurate estimate for students living abroad.

How do I use the calculator if my parents are divorced or separated?

Please input separate calculations with each parent’s information. The combination of the two results will be the total expected parent contribution. If either parent has remarried, your stepparent's information should also be provided. The calculated parental contribution will be based on both incomes; however, Columbia’s final calculation applies a proportional methodology to remarried parents.

Is the tool accurate for parents who are self-employed or own some/all of a business, corporation and/or partnership?

Please input your best estimates on the calculator, according to your percentage of ownership; we will refer to the most recently completed tax documentation at the time of application (Federal 1040 Schedule C and/or Schedule E; Federal 1120 or 1120-S Corporate Tax Returns; 1165 Partnership Tax Returns; K-1s) to confirm actual business income and value.

What if I can’t provide the noncustodial parent information for the financial aid application?

Columbia's policy views financial aid as a partnership between the student, the biological or adoptive parents, and the school. While the application process has requirements for the student and both parents, we recognize that certain circumstances can prevent the completion of a financial aid application.

If you are not in contact with your noncustodial parent or have circumstances that would make obtaining the noncustodial information impossible, you can submit a petition to waive the noncustodial parent requirements. If you feel that you will be unable to complete this component of the financial aid application please complete the Noncustodial Parent Waiver Petition then fax to (212) 854-5353.

How does the Net Price Calculator make allowances for families with more than one student in college?

If your family will have more than one student enrolled in college (for the year in which you will enroll), our calculator assumes that the additional student will be enrolled in a four-year private undergraduate college/university. For siblings enrolled in other types of undergraduate institutions (four-year public, two-year/community college, etc.), Columbia will adjust the Parent Contribution accordingly. Columbia does not include graduate sibling's expenses in our need-based evaluation.