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.

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.

How do I apply for financial aid as an undocumented student?

Undocumented students should not file the FAFSA, whether or not they hold DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. Undocumented students should submit the CSS Profile as well as prior year federal tax returns and W-2s via IDOC. If applicable, the CSS Non-Custodial Profile and/or Business/Farm tax forms should also be submitted.

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, regardless of DACA status, are not eligible to receive federal and state financial aid.

If my DACA status changes, will my financial aid change?

A change in a student's DACA status would have no impact on existing financial aid. 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.

Will my financial aid eligibility be the same all four years?

Students and families are asked to submit a financial aid application in each year the student attends. In general, if the family’s income and asset levels remain steady, the Parent Contribution (PC) will as well. Some common causes for change in future financial aid awards include:

  • Change in the number of students in the household enrolled in an undergraduate program
  • Changes to household income or assets
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.

When will I be unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

You will be unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if you have indicated that you have not yet filed or will not file a federal tax return; if you filed electronically within the last 3 weeks or through the mail within the last 11 weeks; if you filed a foreign or Puerto Rican tax return; if you filed a tax return using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN); or if you indicated on the FAFSA that you are married but filed separately from your spouse (Married, Filing Separately; or Head of Household).

What if my PLUS Loan application is denied based on adverse credit?

You may still be eligible to receive a PLUS loan. To become eligible you must either:

· Obtain an endorser.


· Document extenuating circumstances to the satisfaction of the U.S. Department of Education.

· In either situation, you will need to complete PLUS Credit Counseling, prior to becoming eligible for the PLUS loan.

Why would my PLUS loan application be denied?

Please review the Adverse Credit Conditions considered by the Department of Education on their FAQ page.

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 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.

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.

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.