Financial Aid FAQ

What is financial aid?

Financial aid is any grant, scholarship, loan, or work-study award offered to help you meet education-related expenses. Such aid is usually provided by or through the school, federal and state agencies, foundations or corporations, and other entities.

  • Merit scholarships, based on individual talent and achievement, are available from state, federal, and private programs and usually do not require repayment
  • Need-based scholarships, awarded on financial aid eligibility, come from the individual school you will be attending (and require additional forms to be completed) and state and federal funds and do not require repayment
  • Loans from state, federal, and private programs (must be repaid)
  • Teaching assistantships and graduate research assistantships awarded by the school (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid may be required) are available on a limited basis

How do I apply for financial aid?

The process will differ based on the type of aid you want consideration for, which school you will be attending, and your eligibility. Please review the guidelines based on your program, student status, and aid type—these guidelines will outline the necessary documents for your financial aid application. More information can be found on the Award Letter Checklist page.

I probably don't qualify for aid. Should I apply for it anyway?

You should definitely apply for ALL financial aid during your first year. If you find that you do not qualify for institutional aid, you do not have to continue to supply parents' information in subsequent years unless something changes with their finances. As a graduate and professional student, you will most likely be eligible for Federal Stafford loans.

When and where are term bills sent?

At Columbia, we call each term bill a Student Account Statement. You will be sent the first Student Account Statement for the summer term the first week in June, the first statement for the fall term in late July or early August, and the first statement for the spring term in early December. The payment due date will be approximately 30 days after the first Student Account Statement for the term has been sent.

In addition, you will receive monthly Student Account Statements when there is current activity on your account (a new charge or credit) or if a debit or credit balance remains on your account.

Student Account Statements are sent to you via email. You can also view your Student Account Statement via Student Services Online (SSOL). Also, on SSOL you may authorize your parent(s) to view the E-Bill.

When is the bill payment due?

You should be prepared with adequate personal funds to meet out-of-pocket expenses at the start of the academic year. If your financial aid package includes a P&S scholarship stipend, the check will be available at the beginning of the academic year. All materials required to complete your application for financial aid must be submitted to our office before scholarship/grant monies will be released to you or credited to your account. Third- and fourth-year students should receive scholarship stipends in early July. If you do not have direct deposit, you can pick up the check from the Cashier Division of Registration & Student Financial Services (R&SFS @ CUMC) (Black Bldg., Room 127).

Third-and fourth-year students will not be billed for the academic year until the Fall Term Student Account Statement is generated in August. Payment for all charges not covered by financial aid will be due in September. Specific billing information and due dates will be included in the August mailing. If you do not pay by the bill due date, a late fee of $150 will be assessed. Thereafter, late fees will accrue on the unpaid balance of the account at the rate of 1.5 percent per billing cycle.

Failure to submit all financial aid forms and loan applications in a timely manner may result in a delay in the disbursement of your funds and an assessment of late fees.

The spring semester payment is usually due the third or fourth week of January. Although P&S students do not undergo another in-person registration process in January for the spring semester, R&SFS @ CUMC will not register a student for the spring semester unless the entire fall bill is paid in full by the payment due date in December. Unregistered students may not attend school.

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

Admissions to P&S, CDM, IHN, OT, PT is need-blind. This means that Admissions will consider your application without regard to your financial need.

POINTS-BASED STUDENTS ONLY: Can I receive financial aid if I am taking less than a full-time (12 units) course load?

Yes, as long as you are taking six points in a matriculated program. However, some scholarship programs require that the student be enrolled as a full-time student to be eligible. The amount of financial aid you are eligible for will vary based on your course load. Adjustments will be made if points increase or decrease throughout the semester.

I sent in my FAFSA over four weeks ago but haven't heard anything. What should I do?

If you haven't received a Student Aid Report (SAR), call the federal processor at 800-433-7327. You must provide them with your Social Security number and date of birth as verification.

What is meant by federal verification and why might I have been selected?

Students are randomly selected by the federal government for “verification.” Students are required to submit a Federal Verification Worksheet, which will be emailed to those selected, to the Office of Student Financial Planning.

I have financial aid now but what about next year? Is it necessary to apply again?

Each year the U.S. Department of Education will send you a renewal reminder containing important information about the FAFSA application process. If you included a valid email address on your FAFSA last year, you will receive the reminder by email. You will need your FSA ID to access your prefilled FAFSA, which will contain much of your application data from last year.

Students who received school need-based funding may have additional application materials.

My financial aid award was based on anticipated credits and housing status, but my plans have changed. What do I do?

Contact us if any of the conditions of your initial award have changed. Depending on the changes, your aid may or may not be affected, but it is always better to inform the Office of Student Financial Planning of your plans so adjustments can be made, if necessary, early in the semester. If you don't inform the Office of Student Financial Planning about the changes yourself, discrepancies between anticipated and actual registered points that appear during an enrollment audit will be adjusted at that time. It is the obligation of the Office of Student Financial Planning to adjust aid according to university policy and federal regulations.

Do I need to apply for the loans I accept?

Yes, you need to apply for all of the loans you accept on the award letter. Please review the Award Letter Checklist after you have received your award letter. This will provide instructions on next steps.

What is the difference between a Subsidized and an Unsubsidized Stafford?

Direct Subsidized Loans

-Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need.

-The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on a Direct Subsidized Loan:

  • while you’re in school at least half-time,
  • for the first six months after you leave school (referred to as a grace period*), and
  • during a period of deferment (a postponement of loan payments).

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

-Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students; there is no requirement to demonstrate financial need.

-You are responsible for paying the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan during all periods.

-If you choose not to pay the interest while you are in school and during grace periods and deferment or forbearance periods, your interest will accrue and be capitalized (that is, your interest will be added to the principal amount of your loan).

How and when will I receive the funds I have accepted?

Financial aid awards are released at the start of each semester. As a financial aid recipient, your financial aid award funds will first be used to pay your tuition/fees, any other charges on your student account, and on-campus housing bills. After all your university bills are paid for the semester, the balance of your financial aid money will be issued to you in the form of a refund from the bursar’s office or direct deposit. You can sign up for direct deposit at Student Services Online (SSOL). It can take approximately 5–10 business days for the refund to be received. Signing up for direct deposit will speed up the process. Please note that refunds are based on charges posted to the student account at the time it is being reviewed for eligibility and may not reflect all charges (i.e., student health fees, housing charges, international service charges, etc.). You are responsible to account for all these charges, even if they have not been posted to your account. If you suspect there is a discrepancy on your bill or refund, please come see us.

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 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 may be done at any time during the year. If you would like to discuss your award, please contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Planning.

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

The scholarships you receive from outside sources will be used to reduce the loan portion of your financial aid package. For example, if you are awarded a $2,000 National Merit Scholarship, your loans will be reduced by the full $2,000.

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

Yes. The Health Service fee is unrelated to your medical insurance premium. It is a mandatory fee that gives students access to primary care, counseling, health education programs, and other medical services offered by Columbia. Please visit CUMC Student Health for detailed information regarding coverage and your options. The medical insurance premium, however, can be waived if you show comparable coverage under a parent or spouse's medical plan. If you choose to waive your medical insurance, you need to contact us so that we may adjust your budget accordingly.

Does Columbia offer a tuition payment plan?

Yes, Columbia offers a monthly payment plan to enable you to pay tuition and fees over several months rather than in one payment. You can sign up for the fall semester beginning in July. Columbia offers this plan through the Nelnet service provider, which is integrated with the monthly E-Bill.

The payment plan is available for the fall term, spring term, or the annual academic year plan. It is not available for the summer term.

Visit Student Financial Services for more information. 

If I take a leave of absence, do I have to start repaying my loans?

This may depend on the type of loans and the grace periods of these loans. If you take a leave of absence, you should make an appointment to see us for individual counseling. You may need to complete paperwork and consider your options based on how long your leave of absence is. You can find a summary of definitions in our Glossary of Financial Terms.

I am interested in purchasing a computer, what do I have to do to get funding for this?

Check with other students regarding what type of computer will meet the necessary specs for your curriculum. Then bring your financial aid officer a copy of the detailed specs with the estimated price or a copy of your receipt, as well as the Loan Request Form. Your financial aid officer will increase your budget for the purchase of the computer and certify additional unsubsidized loans to cover the cost. Please note that you are only allowed one budget increase toward a computer purchase during your time at CUMC.

I don't live in Columbia housing; how can I request an adjustment for my rent in an off-campus apartment?

Rents that exceed our average budgets may be approved for extra borrowing BUT only to a maximum of $1,400 a month. The Rent Adjustment Form and a copy of your lease will be required before any adjustments to your budget can be made. Check with your financial aid officer before committing to additional housing expenses that you cannot cover with personal funds.

What email services does Columbia offer alumni?

The Columbia Alumni Association offers two free email services for alumni: web-based hosted email (email with an inbox) and email forwarding (an email address that will forward messages to any email inbox you choose). Both services require that you sign up with a UNI and password.

Please visit the Columbia University Alumni E-mail page.

Where can I access Columbia University's private loan suggested lender list?

For information about Columbia University's private loan suggested lender list, visit Student Financial Services.