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.

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.

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.

Does Columbia offer a payment plan?

Yes. Families may finance all or a portion of the bill through either a 5 month (one semester’s bill) or 10 month payment plan (full academic year). More information on the payment plan is available on Student Financial Services' website.

How do refunds work?

In cases where a student’s financial aid overpays the billed charges, and a surplus is formed, this credit will be refunded to the student via check or direct deposit. To set up direct deposit, the student should log into Student Services Online (SSOL) and click on the Refund option.

How do students apply for a campus job?

There are two types of positions students may secure while enrolled: federal work-study or casual employment. Both types of positions are on-campus work; however they are funded by different sources. Eligibility for federal work-study is determined by the FAFSA. The financial aid award will indicate whether a student is eligible for federal work-study. Federal work study jobs are posted online.

Students not eligible for federal work-study can obtain campus jobs, but would search for them in the casual-employment section. Casual employment campus jobs are posted on the LionSHARE portal.

Students are paid directly; their earnings are not applied toward the bill. Information on the requirements for student job paperwork as well as payroll is available online.

How do I apply for the New York State TAP?

The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are a New York State resident, the federal processor will automatically send your FAFSA information to New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC). HESC will then send you a personalized TAP application for your signature. You must sign this form and return it to HESC in order to receive your TAP award.

How do I waive the medical insurance if I am already covered?

All full-time students are by default enrolled in The Columbia Plan to meet students’ health-related needs beyond the on-campus services offered by Columbia Health.

To request a waiver from default enrollment, you must submit a request online (July 15-September 30) via the Columbia Health website. February 15 is the deadline for spring enrollment (new students only) or June 30 for full-time summer enrollment (new students only). All requests are considered but approval is not guaranteed.

PLEASE NOTE: A waiver must be submitted for each year of enrollment at Columbia.

Information on the waiver process and other services provided by Columbia Health can be found on the Columbia Health website.

How do I pay for books, travel, and personal expenses?

Student’s individual expenses for books, travel, and other personal expenses vary. In our academic year budget we use average figures to reflect the cost students and families can expect to incur. Many students will subsidize these expenses from summer and academic year earnings, savings, parental assistance, and other financing options.

How do my housing and meal plan choices impact my financial aid package?

While individual dining choices will vary, financial aid recipients will receive aid based on a room and meals budget of $17,058*, which includes the new housing rate of $11,600* and meal costs of $5,458* (equivalent to Meal Plan B). Regardless of which residence hall you select, your financial aid will cover your housing cost and up to 175 meals and 200 Dining Dollars or Flex per term.

We recommend that students speak with a financial aid officer if they have any questions on this topic prior to making their housing and meal plan selections.

*For the 2023-2024 academic year

How does financial aid work with Study Abroad?

Financial aid generally can be used to help cover the expenses of a study abroad program that grants academic credit during the Fall or Spring semesters. As part of the application process for studying abroad, the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement (UGE) suggests that students speak with a financial aid officer to discuss the impact on the financial aid award.

Can I purchase a computer with my financial aid?

The cost of a computer is not part of the student budget. Student loans are available to cover a computer that is purchased during the academic year. If you are interested in borrowing a loan to cover the cost of a computer please contact us at

If you have an outside scholarship that exceeds the amount of your Student Contribution (SC) and Work Expectation, up to $1500 of the computer cost may be able to be covered by the scholarship. Note this policy is not applicable to tablet purchases.

Whether borrowing a loan or receiving an outside scholarship to cover the cost, you will be asked to provide a receipt of the purchase.

Do I have to pay the Health Service fee if I am covered by my parents’ medical insurance?

Yes. The Health Service Fee is a mandatory fee to all students residing on campus, and enables students access to the services offered by Columbia’s Health Services (the on-campus infirmary).

Please note that this fee is separate from the Student Health Insurance cost, which can be waived for students who are otherwise covered.

For additional information please visit the Health Services site:

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.

What is an FSA ID, and will I need it to complete the FAFSA?

The FSA ID allows students and parents to identify themselves electronically to access FSA Web sites. An FSA ID is made up of a username and password and can be used to log into FAFSA on the Web.

While you are not required to have an FSA ID to complete and submit a FAFSA application, it is the fastest way to sign your application and have it processed. It is also the only way to access or correct your information online, or to pre-fill a FAFSA application with information from your previous year’s FAFSA.

If you do not have an FSA ID, you can create one on the following page:

If you have an FSA ID but do not remember your username, click Forgot Username.

If you have an FSA ID but do not remember your password, click Forgot Password.

What is Federal Verification?

Federal Verification is a process which requires our office to verify the information provided on the FAFSA. To do this, families must provide documentation to corroborate that the personal and tax information reported on the FAFSA matches the tax returns submitted to the IRS. Additional information on this process is available on our verification page.

PLEASE NOTE: Our office will work with all newly admitted students who enroll to collect required documentation during the summer for the Federal Verification process.

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.