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Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of frequently asked questions from across the offices supporting Columbia College and Columbia Engineering collected here in one place for your convenience. You can browse by topic/department or search by keyword.

Admitted Students

Are there other charges or expenses that I should be aware of?

Additional billed costs you might accrue include laboratory or language fees (for certain classes) and laundry service (optional). Some courses, particularly in the sciences and languages have fees ranging from $5 to $150. Laundry service costs begin at $20. These charges will not appear on the first Student Account Statement, but will appear on subsequent Student Account Statements.

You should plan for additional unbilled costs for books and miscellaneous expenses. Miscellaneous expenses may include such things as academic supplies, personal items, and recreation. Our office uses a figure of $2,100 for these books and miscellaneous items when figuring the student’s cost of attendance.

In addition, you should budget for the cost of travel between home and New York. Students who will be flying to school are encouraged to take advantage of the lowest student fares available by booking as early as possible. If you do not have a travel agent, you may want to contact STA Travel at 800-777-0112 or the STA Travel Web site. We also encourage students to check online for bargains by doing a search for “student travel”.

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.

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

Yes. The Health Service fee is unrelated to medical insurance. It is a mandatory fee that gives students access to primary care, counseling, health education programs and other medical services offered by Columbia. Please consult the Guide to Health and Related Services for detailed information regarding what is covered by this fee.

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.

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 get a work study job?

Federal Work Study jobs are listed on the Federal Work Study Office website.

After you find a job that interests you, you must bring an Employment Authorization Form (available from the Federal Work Study Payroll Office in 207 Philosophy Hall) directly to the employer. If you are hired for a work study position, your employer will complete the Employment Authorization Form, which then must be returned to the Federal Work Study Payroll Office.

Non-Federal Work Study jobs are listed on the

Center for Career Education


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

Aetna Student Health manages the medical insurance waiver process for Columbia, which is separate from Health Services. An overview of the Health Insurance information may be found online at There is an online waiver form, which you must complete and return every year during the summer prior to the beginning of the academic year (and no later than September 30 each year). When they receive the waiver form and are able to determine that you receive adequate medical coverage, Aetna will take appropriate action, and you will not be billed for medical insurance. We encourage you to complete this process no later than July 15 so that an anticipated charge for medical insurance will not appear on your Student Account Statement for the fall term. Please note that the online waiver will not activate for the upcoming academic year until summer:

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 will I pay for books and other personal expenses?

We include a standard amount of $2,100 in every student’s cost of attendance for books and other personal expenses. Normally, students use the earnings from their term time job to help cover these expenses.

How will I receive my earnings? Do my wages get deposited directly to my student account?

Student employees generally receive biweekly paychecks for the hours they worked. These earnings do not appear as credits on any bill received from Columbia. Instead, a paycheck will be given to the student and the money earned may be used to purchase books and other personal items.

Wages for work study jobs range from approximately $7 to $12, depending on the job and your qualifications. Most first-year students earn approximately $7-8 per hour and therefore work about ten to twelve hours a week to fulfill their work study allocation.

May I appeal my financial aid package?
  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 if my financial aid application is still incomplete?

Once you submit the missing documents we will attempt to notify you of your aid eligibility within a week. If you have any questions regarding any of the missing materials please call of the Office of Financial Aid & Undergraduate Financing at 212-854-3711.

What is your policy towards renewing my financial aid after my first year?

For each year of attendance at Columbia, you will need to submit a new financial aid application which will be evaluated using the same methods and criteria that were used when you were admitted. Since the cost of attendance increases each year, for the typical family the financial aid package will increase in order to keep up with the cost increase. However, if your family circumstances have changed (e.g., changes in income, number of people in the household, the number of children who are full-time undergraduate students), then your financial aid award will be adjusted to take these changes into account.

Will I have to work during the summer?

Yes, Columbia students are expected to work during the summer, incoming first-years are expected to earn $1,850 during the summer before entering Columbia. This amount should be available to contribute toward your educational expenses during the academic year.

Will my financial aid award change after I have received my original award?

Possibly, but only if the verification process has revealed that certain information you provided during the application process is not accurate. We realize the financial aid forms are complicated and that our deadlines may require you to provide estimated information. As a result, initial financial aid awards may be based on inaccurate estimates provided by a family.

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