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.

What if my parent does not have a Social Security Number?

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.

What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?

Interest for subsidized loans begins accruing after the six-month grace period (post-graduation or during a period of less-than-halftime enrollment longer than six months). If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact our office.

Unsubsidized Loans begin to accrue interest once the loan has disbursed to the student account.

Why can’t I see my own tax return information when transferring the data?

Your tax return information is not visible because of added security and privacy protections.

Can the school see the data that’s transferred from the IRS?

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.

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.

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 admissions’ 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 fax a copy of the student’s Social Security Card using our cover sheet.

Please be sure to list your name and Columbia ID# on the cover sheet in case the faxed document is not clear. For security reasons, do not submit this document by email.

As an undocumented student, am I eligible for financial aid?

Yes, Columbia is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all students admitted as first-years or transfer students pursuing their first degree, regardless of citizenship status. For admissions purposes, undocumented students are reviewed in a need-blind manner, without regard to financial need.

How will I pay for the flight to my Study Abroad program?

Students are expected to make their own travel arrangements to their abroad program including the purchase of a plane ticket to their destination. The Financial Aid office does not provide any assistance or additional funds to pay for a student's travel and advises that families purchase flights early to take advantage of lower prices. Eligible students will be notified via email when their refunds will be disbursed if their program begins prior to the Columbia semester start date. Otherwise, students' aid will disburse based at the beginning of the respective semester and can be monitored through their SSOL accounts under "View Student Account Detail By Term."

I hold DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. What types of financial aid can I receive?

Columbia is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all students admitted as first-years or transfer students pursuing their first degree, regardless of citizenship status. Undocumented students, including those with DACA status, are not eligible to receive federal and state financial aid, so Columbia meets their need entirely from institutional resources.

How do I cover my enrollment deposit for my Study Abroad program?

Families are expected to pay the enrollment deposit for their student's study abroad program and adhere to the deadlines set by that institution. However, a student's enrollment deposit can be deferred if they receive enough financial aid that the anticipated refund will cover the program's fees. Eligible students can visit the Office of Financial Aid to determine if their expected aid will generate a refund and complete the necessary documentation to have the payment deferred. Students should consult their specific program to understand what documentation is required in order to have their deposit deferred. Please be aware that not every student will receive a refund to defer the enrollment deposit and should expect to cover said fee in order to avoid complications with matriculation.

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 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?

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).

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.

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 education loans. Information on different financing options is available on the Education Loans portion of our website.