Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAQs: Prospective Students

Home / FAQs / Prospective Students / Frequently Asked Questions / FAQs: Prospective Students
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.

Do I have to use my Social Security Number on my Application?

Yes. Columbia will need the student’s full legal name (as listed on the Social Security Card) and Social Security Number (SSN) in order to download the FAFSA. If the student’s legal name and SSN were not provided in their admission application, we will need a copy of the student’s Social Security Card to update our records. If you need to update the student’s SSN or legal name, please provide a copy of the student’s Social Security Card via the IDOC portal.

How does QuestBridge work at Columbia?

QuestBridge is a non-profit organization which identifies high-achieving, low-income students, assists them with the college search and application process and works to connect them to educational opportunities at a range of partner colleges and universities.

Columbia has been a QuestBridge partner school for more than 15 years, and we are proud to have matched with more than 400 scholars.

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 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.

How do I track my financial aid application?

Columbia's Online Financial Aid System 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:

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).

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.

Can I apply after the financial aid deadline?

US Citizens, Eligible Noncitizens and students living in the US without legal citizenship or residency – 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.

When do I file the FAFSA?

The FAFSA becomes available on October 1, 2020 for the 2021-2022 academic year. 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 utilize the Data Retrieval Tool.

Early Decision: The FAFSA is due November 15, 2020.

Regular Decision: The FAFSA is due February 15, 2021.

Transfer/Combined Plan: The FAFSA is due March 1, 2021.

Continuing Students: The FAFSA is due May 5, 2021.

How do I log into the Online Financial Aid System?

To sign in please enter your Student ID (starts with the letter C followed by 9 numbers) and your Password (date of birth, MMDDCCYY format) in the 'Log-In' box. Do not use the 'First Time User' link even if you are a first-time user. Once logged in, follow the prompts to set up a new password and create security questions. If you haven't been assigned a Student ID yet, please contact your admissions office.

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

Please do not use the 'First Time User' link even if you are a first-time user. Instead, go directly to the 'Log In' box and enter your Student ID (starts with the letter C followed by 9 numbers) and your Password (date of birth, MMDDCCYY format). If you are still unable to log in, use the 'Forgot Your Password?' link and follow the prompts. If this doesn't work, 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 8 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.