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 loans for international students?

International students may seek private lenders for available education loans. Some lenders may require a U.S. co-signer. Columbia offers a suggested lender list online, but students may choose a lender not on that list as well.

Where can I see my bill?

Students may view their bill online through their SSOL account.

Can I borrow loans to cover non-billed items like rent, books and personal expenses?

Yes, students may borrow up to the full cost of attendance. This includes both billed and non-billed expenses. All loans will first disburse to the student account. Once all charges are paid, any excess loan funds will be refunded to the student via direct deposit or paper check.

How do I meet with a Financial Aid Officer?

We have walk-in hours each day from 9:30-4:30pm, except Tuesday from 9:30-2:30pm. Pre-scheduled appointments are not required. Officers are also available by phone at 212-854-3711.

How do I defer my undergraduate loan repayment?

Columbia University will send your enrollment status to the National Student Loan Clearinghouse after the add/drop period each semester. If you have loans from lenders who do not work with this clearinghouse, you may request a certificate of enrollment online through SSOL to submit to your lender.

Are there any other funding opportunities?

Students may be funded by their academic department. Any students who receive these funds are notified at the time of admission. There is no separate application process. Students may also search for available scholarships and fellowships online:

What if I change the number of credits I am taking?

Loan eligibility is directly tied to the number of credits you are enrolled in each semester. If you add or drop a class after your loans have been processed, our office will make adjustments as appropriate based on your new loan eligibility. Students who drop below half-time will no longer be eligible for federal student loans.

Can I apply after the financial aid deadline?

US Citizens and Eligible Noncitizens – 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 Gold level of the Columbia Plan. To request a waiver from default enrollment, you must submit a request online before September 30 (February 15 for new Spring enrollment or June 15 for new full-time Summer trimester students). All requests are considered but approval is not guaranteed. A waiver must be submitted for each year of enrollment at Columbia. Information on waiving the medical insurance fee is available on the Health Services website.

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 $13,644*, which includes the new housing rate of $9,292* and meal costs of $4,352* (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.

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 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 Office for Global Programs (OGP) requires students to meet with a financial aid officer to discuss the impact on the financial aid award. Please bring in the OGP form to meet with an officer during any of our walk-in hours.

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, the cost of the computer may be able to be covered by the scholarship.

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

How will my aid change if I become a Resident Advisor (RA)?

The financial aid budget traditionally includes an amount to account for the cost of housing. As an RA, you will not be charged for housing. Your financial aid award will be adjusted to reflect the lower charges. The award will be simultaneously adjusted to reduce the Student Contribution (SC) and Fall/Spring semester work-expectation.

Please note that if you have any outside scholarships already reducing the SC and/or Work Expectation, this may impact the RA benefit.

For any questions on the direct impact on your award we recommend you meet with a financial aid officer during walk-in hours.

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 is available beginning January 1, 2016. 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 complete the FAFSA after they file their 2015 taxes, so that they may utlize the Data Retrieval Tool.

Early Decision: The FAFSA is due November 15, 2016.

Regular Decision: The FAFSA is due February 15, 2016.

Transfer/Combined Plan: The FAFSA is due March 1, 2016.

Continuing Students: The FAFSA is due May 5, 2016.