Frequently Asked Questions

The following are a list of frequently asked questions from across Student Affairs collected here in one place for your convenience. You can browse by topic/department or search by keyword.

Prospective Students

Can families apply for financial aid in future years if they do not apply the first year?

Yes. A family that experiences a change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time. For example, it is not uncommon for a family to suffer a job loss or illness or for a younger sibling to begin attending college. Please note that institutional aid will usually be awarded only in cases that involve an involuntary change in circumstances. Parents who decide to retire early or to invest in a business start-up may not be awarded institutional aid. It is a good idea to include a letter describing your family’s change in circumstances with any new financial aid application.

Please note: foreign students and transfer students who were admitted without institutional financial aid are not guaranteed institutional financial aid even if there is a change in circumstances.

Can I be released from my Early Decision contract because of my financial aid package?

It is extremely rare for a family to ask to be released from the Early Decision commitment for financial reasons. However, on occasion possibly due to a lack of understanding of need-based aid (i.e., they were expecting merit-based aid, they did not submit complete information when using a financial aid estimator, etc) families have requested to be released from their Early Decision contract.

It is the family’s determination that they cannot afford to pay for a Columbia education that allows them to be released from the binding early decision admission offer. The family must first speak with a financial aid officer, before the release is granted. Ultimately, it is the family’s decision whether or not they feel capable of accepting the need-based Columbia financial aid award.

Those who do opt out of their Early Decision contract are released to pursue lower-cost school options, such as state schools and/or schools that award merit aid. The admission offer at Columbia is then cancelled. A candidate who declines Columbia’s Early Decision offer will not be allowed to reconsider Columbia’s financial aid estimate during the spring Regular Decision cycle and will not be able to reinstate the original offer of admission.

Does Columbia match financial aid packages from other schools?

It is not our policy to automatically match other offers, and we do not negotiate financial aid awards. We will not match offers from institutions that offer merit-based awards. However, if you fax us a copy of another need-based offer, we will review your application to determine if a change is appropriate. We do this because different schools may have different information at the time the application was evaluated. Or perhaps your circumstances are complex and have been interpreted differently by another school. The new documentation you provide our office may give us a better understanding of your family’s financial circumstances.

Does Columbia offer merit scholarships?

There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships at Columbia as all of our institutional financial aid is need-based. Our students are often the recipients of merit-based scholarships from outside organizations (state grants/scholarships, local/national merit-based awards, etc.); however, no merit-based aid is offered directly from Columbia University.

Does Columbia offer scholarships and if so, how many?

Columbia College and the undergraduate division of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science provide need-based financial aid to students, awarding grants, loans and on-campus work-study jobs to applicants on the basis of their family’s financial circumstances. There is no limit on the number of students who receive need-based financial aid as each application is considered individually.  In 2007-2008 the average financial aid package was over $30,000.

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

The scholarships you receive from outside sources will be used to reduce the work study portion of your financial aid package. For example, if you are awarded a $2,000 National Merit Scholarship, your work study expectation will be reduced by the full $2,000. Only after your work study has been completely eliminated will your scholarships begin to reduce any Columbia Grant you may have received.

How much financial aid is available for transfer students?

Columbia admits transfer students on a need blind basis.  However, Columbia has a limited amount of institutional funds for transfer students.  In order to be considered for financial aid transfer applicants must have a complete financial aid application on file at the time of their admission.

Is financial aid available for foreign students?

Though Columbia is not need-blind in its admission of foreign students, if you are admitted then we will meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need.  If you plan on applying for financial at any point during your four years of study then you must apply for financial aid at the time you apply for admission.

May I appeal a financial aid package if admitted?
  1. YES, if your family’s financial circumstances changed after you submitted your financial aid application.

  2. YES, if you have complicated circumstances, and you would like us to take a second look at how we interpreted your family’s financial situation.

  3. YES, if another need-based school has provided you a different interpretation of your family’s financial circumstances.

  4. NO, if your sole reason for the appeal is that you are asking us to consider merit-based offers from other schools.

All appeals should be submitted in writing and you may do so at any time during the year.  If you would like to discuss your award, please call the Office of Financial Aid and Educational Financing to speak with one of our financial aid advisors: 212-854-3711.

What is the percentage of Columbia students who receive financial aid?

Approximately 50% of Columbia undergraduates receive some sort of financial assistance. In addition, about 80% of first-year students applying for financial aid for the 2007-2008 year received a need-based aid award.

Will my chances for admission be affected if I apply for financial aid?

For United States, Mexican and Canadian citizens, permanent residents of the United States and students granted refugee visas by the United States: Admission to Columbia College and to the undergraduate division of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is need-blind. This means we will consider your application without regard to your financial need.

For foreign students (students who are NOT Citizens of the United States, Mexico and Canada, permanent residents of the United States or students granted refugee visas by the United States): Financial aid is available for foreign students, but candidates should be aware that the admission process is not need-blind.  As a result, their applications are read in a more selective process. However, Columbia is committed to meeting the full need of all applicants admitted as first-year students regardless of their citizenship status.

As a foreign student, you should determine what amount you feel you and your family could afford to pay each year for four years of study. If you conclude that you and your family will be unable to assume the estimated total cost of attendance, you should apply for financial aid at the same time you apply for admission. If you are traveling to Columbia from another country, you will also want to consider travel expenses.