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)

How do I apply for financial aid?

The process will differ on 1) which program you will be attending and 2) the type of aid you want consideration for.  You can 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 at Applying for Financial Aid or Renewing Your Financial Aid.


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

The MD, DDS and OTMS programs all have need-based school funds; if you think you have even some chance of qualifying, you should apply for ALL financial aid during your first year.  If you do not qualify for school aid, you do not have to continue to supply parents' information in subsequent years unless something changes with their finances.  As a graduate student in these programs, and for students in the Dental Postgraduate, PT, HN and GC programs, US citizens and permanent residents most likely will be eligible for Federal Direct loans, and can obtain these without parental financial information.  International students should contact our Office for more information.

When and where are term bills sent?

At Columbia, Student Financial Services is responsible for billing.  We call each term bill a Student Account Statement.  You will be sent the first Student Account Statement for the summer term in June, the first statement for the fall term in August, and the first statement for the spring term in 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.

Third-and fourth-year MD, DDS and Dental Postgraduate 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.

Student Account Statements are sent to you via email. You can also view your Student Account Statement via Student Services Online (SSOL) - check View Student Account Detail by Term for the most current information. Also, on SSOL you may authorize your parent(s) to view the E-Bill.



When will my financial aid funds be available?

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 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 medical and dental students should receive scholarship stipends in early July. If you do not have direct deposit, please contact Registration & Student Financial Services about receiving a check.


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

Financial aid awards are released at the start of each semester. All financial aid funds except stipends will first be used to pay your tuition, fees, any other charges on your student account, and on-campus housing bills. If your financial aid exceeds your bill after your University bill is paid in full for the semester, the balance of your financial aid will be issued to you in the form of a refund. 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 is faster than receiving a paper check. 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 pay 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 contact Student Financial Services.


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

All of the programs that our office works with have need-blind admissions. This means that your admissions application will be considered without regard to your financial need.

Can I receive financial aid if I am taking less than a full-time course load?

You are eligible for Federal Direct Loans as long as you are considered enrolled at least half time in your program.

I sent in my FAFSA 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. You can see if our office has received your SAR by checking NetPartner after our systems go live in March.

What is meant by Federal Verification and why might I have been selected?

Students are randomly selected by the federal government for “Verification” and are required to submit a Federal Verification Worksheet. If you are selected, you will hear from our Office with further instructions.  

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 need-based school funding will have additional application materials.

International students should contact their financial aid officer for the appropriate information per program.

Since I received my financial aid award my situation has 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 our office of your plans so adjustments can be made, if necessary, early in the semester. We are required 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. Please review the Financial Aid Offer Letter Checklist after you have received your award letter. This will provide instructions on next steps.

May I appeal my financial aid package?

1. For students receiving school need-based aid in the MD, DN and OT programs:

‒ YES, if your family’s financial circumstances changed after you submitted your financial aid application.

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

All appeals should be submitted in writing to your Financial Aid Officer.

2. For students wishing to add costs to their standard financial aid budget, please write to your Financial Aid Officer to determine if the costs are allowable under financial aid regulations; if yes, provide your Financial Aid Officer with the necessary documentation of your expenses.

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

The scholarships you receive from outside sources may be used either to reduce the loan portion of your financial aid package or replace all or part of the calculated family contribution. For example, if you are awarded a $2,000 Outside Scholarship, your loans can 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 CUIMC 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 your medical insurance fee is waived, 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.

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

Check with your program regarding what type of computer will meet the necessary specs for your curriculum. Then submit a Budget Adjustment & Loan Change Request Form along with a copy of the detailed specs with the estimated price, or a copy of your receipt. Your financial aid officer will increase your budget for the purchase of the computer and certify additional unsubsidized loans to cover the cost, not to exceed $2000. Please note that you are only allowed one budget increase toward a computer purchase during your time at CUIMC.


How can I request an adjustment for my rent if it exceeds the published standard budget?

Rents that exceed our average budgets may be approved for extra borrowing BUT only to a maximum of $1,600 a month. The Budget Adjustment & Loan Change Request 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.


Where can I access Columbia University's List of private lenders?

For information about Columbia University's list of private lenders go to Student Financial Services.