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.
Frequently Asked Questions
All financial aid recipients are expected to contribute towards the Student Responsibility, which consists of the Student Contribution and Student Employment.
All incoming First-Year students have a minimum Student Contribution of $2,400 as part of their financial aid award; a contribution from student assets may be included. The expectation is that the student will earn this amount in the summer preceding their first academic year. Alternatively, students and their families may cover this amount with outside scholarships, savings, parental assistance, and/or other financing options if they choose to.
Student Employment is also part of the financial aid award. Students earn this amount during the Fall and Spring semesters. These earnings are generally used to pay for non-billed expenses, such as books/supplies and other personal expenses. This expectation is also not required, and may be covered by outside scholarships, savings, parental assistance, and/or other financing options.
In future years, students who obtain unpaid summer or semester internships may apply for additional grant to cover these expectations through the Work Exemption Program.
The Parent Contribution is the amount the parents are expected to pay towards educational costs for the academic year. It is based on our review of the information provided to us in the financial aid application. Learn more about the variables that are considered in our analysis.
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.
Early Decision applicants- The financial aid award you received will be finalized based on prior year tax returns and information provided in the CSS Profile.
Regular Decision applicants- If your financial aid award was reviewed with prior year tax returns, then your financial aid eligibility is final.
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
US Citizens, Eligible Noncitizens and students residing in the US 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.
If your financial aid application was incomplete at the time of admission, you can still complete it and receive a financial aid evaluation. Please submit the missing items at your earliest convenience. If you have any questions regarding any of the missing materials please contact our office.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
US Citizens and Eligible Noncitizens – You can apply for financial aid after the recommended deadline, and financial aid eligibility will not be impacted by the time of application. We do recommend that you file by the deadline to assure you receive a timely eligibility letter.
International- 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.
To make corrections or changes to the information that you provided on the CSS Profile, print out the page(s) that you need to change/correct and hand write the correct information. Those corrected page(s) should be submitted directly to our office via fax or mail.
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.
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.
Billing at Columbia is only sent online. Students will receive an e-mail notification when a new E-Bill is generated. For parents or other third parties to receive billing notifications, the student needs to first set them up as Authorized Payers to the account. To do this, the student should log into Student Services Online (SSOL), click on Account, select the View E-Bill and Pay by E-Check option, and then go to the Authorize Payers, and set up an account for each person he/she wishes to receive the bill.
Please note that there are two different ways in which to view the account. The first is the official E-Bill. The E-Bill is a monthly snapshot of the account balance at a given time, and will not update until a new E-Bill is generated. The second is the Recent Activity section. This section is updated daily, and will reflect the most current account balance.
Your parent will not be able to borrow a Federal Parent PLUS loan without a Social Security Number; please contact our office for additional financing options.
Interest on a Direct Subsidized Loan is paid by the U.S. Department of Education while you are in school at least half-time and during your six-month grace period after you leave school. If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact our office.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans begin to accrue interest once the loan has disbursed to the student account.
Your tax return information is not visible because of added security and privacy protections.
Yes. We will have access to the tax return information that is transferred via the IRS DRT and will follow up with you if we notice issues or need more information.
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.
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.
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.