Frequently Asked Questions

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How can I afford to send my child to Columbia?

We know that choosing the right college involves a variety of factors, and the cost of the institution and how you will finance your student’s education are extremely important considerations. A student should never decide not to apply to Columbia because they think the cost exceeds their family’s ability to pay. Need-based aid makes it possible for everyone to afford a Columbia education.

Columbia reviews each admitted student’s family’s financial circumstances, determines your financial need, and awards aid to meet a family’s full demonstrated financial need. For many families, Columbia can be as affordable, if not more affordable, than a state-college or university education.

We make every effort to help meet students’ financial needs. In our quest to make Columbia affordable for all students, especially those from low-income and middle-income families, the University implemented the following financial aid enhancements for all incoming and continuing students:

  • Columbia eliminated loans for all students receiving financial aid packages, whatever their family income, and replaced them with University grants.
  • In an effort to further assist low-income families, parents with calculated total incomes below $60,000 (and typical assets) are not expected to contribute any of their income or assets to tuition, room, board and mandatory fees.
  • Families with calculated incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 (and typical assets) have a significantly reduced parent contribution.
  • To support students pursuing study abroad, research, internships and community service opportunities, Columbia offers the opportunity to apply for additional funding and exemptions from academic year and summer work expectations.

These enhancements build on previous financial aid initiatives and a long standing commitment to make Columbia affordable for all admitted students as illustrated by the following facts:

  • Columbia meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for all students admitted as first years who applied for financial aid, including foreign students, and we continue to meet your 100% of your demonstrated financial need for all four years of study.
  • Columbia has the highest proportion of undergraduates receiving federal Pell Grants in the Ivy League and among the nation’s most elite private research institutions.
  • About half of Columbia undergraduates receive some sort of financial assistance.
  • Last year, Columbia committed over $122 million of its resources for grant aid to undergraduate students.
  • In 2007 alumnus John Kluge, CC’37, pledged $400 million to Columbia, all designated for financial aid. This marks the largest pledge ever devoted exclusively to student aid to any single institution of higher education in the United States.

How does the QuestBridge College Match work with Columbia?

You will find a detailed list of required documents on the QuestBridge website under the Columbia University College Match Requirements. Columbia is a college partner with QuestBridge. In addition to the QuestBridge application, the admissions and financial aid offices require students to submit additional information directly to Columbia University.

Admissions Requirements: All students that are interested in attending Columbia must also file the Common Application or the Coalition Application, along with the Columbia-specific questions.  Please refer to this webpage for information about applying to Columbia.  All students must apply online.

Students should submit their application to Columbia under Regular Decision if they wish to be considered for the National College Match. Please select “Regular Decision” under Entry Term when filling out your application. If you are matched with Columbia through QuestBridge, your application status will automatically switch to Early Decision. Please note that if selected as a College Match with Columbia, the admission contract is binding and students are expected to attend Columbia the following fall. In addition, students must withdraw all other applications.  During the evaluation process for the College Match, the Columbia admissions committee will consider both your QuestBridge application and the Common Application or Coalition Application.

Financial Aid Requirements: All students that rank Columbia through the National College Match must submit the following financial aid information by November 1, 2016:

  • 2016-2017 CSS PROFILE online (including Noncustodial PROFILE, if applicable). Columbia’s CSS code is 2116.
  • 2015 Tax Returns & W2s
  • Parent or Guardian’s most recent 2016 pay stubs

These documents should be faxed to (212) 854-5353 ATTN: QUESTBRIDGE as soon as possible and no later than November 1, 2016.

Is the QuestBridge Match Process binding?

Yes, the National College Match at Columbia University is binding.

If I become a QuestBridge Finalist and I am not matched, will Columbia consider my QuestBridge application for admission to Columbia during Regular Decision?

If you have submitted either the Common Application or the Coalition Application as a QuestBridge finalist, you will automatically be considered for Regular Decision admission unless you contact Columbia and withdraw your application or are matched with another college or university. Any student who is a finalist and ranks Columbia during the College Match must submit the Common Application or Coalition Application by November 1, 2016 under Regular Decision. If you are not matched, Columbia will reevaluate only your Common Application/Coalition Application during the Regular Decision process; however, we will consider that you were a QuestBridge Finalist. You may submit the essay you composed for the QuestBridge application for your Common Application or Coalition Application if the content is appropriate for the essay prompts. Please note that we use a holistic review process when evaluating applicants for admission. That means admission to Columbia is not based on a simple formula of grades and test scores. Instead, we consider a variety of factors: the student’s academic record, extracurricular interests, intellectual achievements and personal background, among many factors.

If I am not named a finalist in the QuestBridge College Match Program, may I apply to Columbia?

Yes. Many QuestBridge students will not participate in the Match Process and will pursue admission to Columbia under our Early Decision or Regular Decision programs. Please explore our general requirements and deadlines for more information.

Students who are not selected as Finalists must submit the Common Application or Coalition Application. Columbia does not accept the QuestBridge application in lieu of these applications.

Please note that you may submit the essay you composed for the QuestBridge application for your Common Application or Coalition Application if the content is appropriate for the essay prompts.

If I am a QuestBridge Finalist, do I need to submit an application fee?

If you are a QuestBridge Finalist, the application fee will be waived. QuestBridge will verify names of all Finalists with Columbia. In the Common Application/Coalition Application member-specific questions for Columbia, please answer affirmatively to the following question: “Columbia provides a fee waiver for students who applied for the Columbia Engineering Experience (CE2) and QuestBridge finalists. Do you qualify for one of these fee waivers?”

If you are not a QuestBridge Finalist, an $85 nonrefundable fee is required as part of an application to Columbia University. If paying the application fee is a significant financial burden for your family, we encourage you to request a fee through your admission application. Requesting a fee waiver will not disadvantage an applicant in any way. For first-year applicants, an email will be sent to the counselor or school official designated on your application to verify your eligibility. You can review information about application fees and waiver eligibility on our website.

If I am not admitted to Columbia through the QuestBridge Match Process, what kind of financial aid will be offered?

All of Columbia’s financial aid is need-based. All financial aid packages, including those of QuestBridge Finalists participating in the Match process, are based on demonstrated need. Our financial aid packages for those in Regular Decision will be determined in the same way as for those students who were selected through the College Match. Columbia meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for all students admitted as first-years, regardless of citizenship. Loans are not a component of Columbia financial aid packages and we will continue to meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need for all four years of study. For more information please refer to the Columbia/QuestBridge scholarship package description. For more information, please visit the Office of Financial Aid and Educational Financing website.

Is testing required for QuestBridge applicants?

Yes. Standardized tests are required for admission according to the following guidelines. All test scores must be submitted directly to Columbia by the testing agency. Applicants can choose to take either the SAT or the ACT. Please see details below.

SAT

The redesigned SAT consists of two sections, each graded on an 800-point scale and the writing portion will be separate. Columbia does not require the optional writing section. You will be evaluated on the highest score you receive in any individual section. If you took the test more than once, you will be evaluated on the highest score you received in any individual section.

If you are applying for Fall 2017 or Fall 2018 admission, results from the redesigned SAT and/or the previous SAT will be accepted. When evaluating applicants, we will consider only the highest testing results reported from one version of the test, not across both versions.

ACT

You may alternatively take the ACT, graded on a 36-point scale; if you take the test more than once, you will be evaluated on the highest score you received in any individual section. Columbia does not require the writing test offered by the ACT.

SAT Subject Tests

The SAT Subject Test scores are not required, but Columbia will accept scores from the exams if you choose to submit them. You will not be at a disadvantage should you choose not to take the tests or submit the scores to Columbia.

Finalists must take required testing before or on the SAT and ACT October test dates to be considered for the College Match at Columbia.  

Regular Decision applicants may take standardized tests as late as January.

Never utilize the ”rush” service in sending your test scores to Columbia. Doing so does not speed up the processing of your test scores. We secure all testing via a secure website to which we are provided access by the appropriate testing agency. 

You must be sure to request that your scores be reported directly to Columbia every time you take a standardized test. The appropriate code for the SAT is 2116 (Columbia College or Columbia Engineering) and for the ACT is 2717.

If you are a QuestBridge Finalist applying to Columbia through the College Match program and the cost of sending your official test scores to Columbia poses a significant financial burden to your family, we can accept unofficial test score reports that are sent directly from a guidance counselor at your school. We can also accept testing submitted by your school counselor if printed on your high school transcript or a copy of the score report.

What assistance is available to help Combined Plan students with their post-Columbia plans?

Combined Plan students have full access to The Center for Career Education, the Office of Preprofessional Advising, and the Office of Fellowships, which provide individual advising, programming and rich resources to help students explore and prepare for internships and jobs, graduate school and fellowship programs. Graduating student survey results demonstrate that Columbia engineering students are equipped to pursue a variety of paths upon graduation.

Who may I contact with additional questions about applying to the Juilliard Exchange?

Prospective students with questions beyond those addressed on this webpage may reach out to Rebecca Schiavo in Columbia’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, rab2195@columbia.edu. For questions about The Juilliard School, please contact Lee Cioppa, admissions@juilliard.edu.

When will I hear from Juilliard?

Columbia notifies all candidates by mid-December for Early Decision or April 1 for Regular Decision. Juilliard notifies all Exchange candidates regarding admission specifically to the Exchange by April 1. Candidates may hear sooner from Juilliard regarding pre-screening results and live audition dates.

Should I apply after three years or after four?

You should speak with the liaison at your school, who can advise you on an appropriate course of study and/or other institutional requirements that may determine when you will apply. While most students apply in their third year, you may apply in your fourth year and still be considered for guaranteed admission. Students may apply only up to one year after they have graduated.

How do I get Dining Dollars and Flex dollars?

Dining dollars and Flex Dollars can be purchased at the beginning of the term when paying the yearly bill and can be added to the account throughout the year.

Does Columbia have fraternities and sororities?

Yes. Approximately 10-15% of undergraduate students are affiliated with fraternities or sororities. Over 25 chapters exist on campus, and many are housed in the brownstones and row houses that line 113th and 114th Streets.

Can Dining Dollars be used off campus?

No, but Columbia students can have a Flex Account, which allows them to make dollar-for-dollar food purchases at a number of off-campus eateries, including Chipotle, the Heights Grill, and Whole Foods Market. Students can also use their Flex Account at all on-campus locations, including the campus bookstore, as well as off-campus drugstores and shops. Please visit the Accepted Flex Locations for a full list of participating businesses.

What kind of meal plans does Columbia offer?

All first-year students are required to be on a meal plan that they will select over the summer before their arrival. In all succeeding years they may choose to continue a meal plan or utilize the various grocery stores and restaurants in the neighborhood. Meal plans at Columbia consist of a varying number of meals at John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons, JJ’s Place, or Barnard College’s Hewitt Dining Hall, and dining dollars that can be used at any of Columbia’s 13 different on-campus dining locations.

Will I get the same financial aid package from Columbia as I received from my affiliate school?

As Columbia awards only need-based financial aid, your aid package may change. Please see the financial aid section on our website for more information.

Will I be able to take non-technical liberal arts electives at Columbia?

Depending on your department and schedule, you may be able to take non-technical elective courses.

Will any courses I’ve taken elsewhere (at non-affiliate institutions and/or study abroad programs) fulfill Columbia's prerequisite courses?

Please speak with the liaison at your school, who should be familiar with your school’s policies. If the course appears on your home institution’s transcript and if your liaison approves by noting this in his/her recommendation letter, we will accept credit taken at other institutions as fulfillment of the prerequisite course. Official transcripts from all institutions attended are required. Please note that additional information about your school’s credit policies may be required as part of your application.

Will any advanced credits I earned in high school (e.g., AP or IB courses) transfer?

If your institution has awarded you any college credits for work done in high school, Columbia will accept this credit. Please speak with your liaison to determine whether these credits fulfill Columbia prerequisite courses. The liaison must note this awarding of credit in his/her letter as part of your application and the courses must appear on your transcript.

Why can’t I apply to the Financial Engineering major?

Financial Engineering is a concentration in the Industrial Engineering & Operations Research department that requires an application after at least one semester of study at Columbia. Entrance in this program is very competitive.


Students interested in the Financial Engineering track should consider Operations Research, Engineering Management Systems or Industrial Engineering as fields of study.

Which classes count towards Columbia’s prerequisite courses?

Please speak with the liaison at your school in order to determine which classes fulfill Columbia pre-engineering and major course requirements. Our Pre-Curriculum Course Descriptions describe the topics covered through our prerequisite courses, which may help you guide you and your school liaison.

When are financial aid forms due for Combined Plan applicants?

Forms should be completed as soon as possible, and no later than March 1, 2017.

What kind of housing do Combined Plan students receive?

Combined Plan students are guaranteed housing in their first year.

While Columbia will do its best to accommodate students’ requests to live on campus after the first year, there is no guarantee that Combined Plan students will be offered a room on campus beyond the first year. Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) assists Columbia students and affiliates in their search for housing in non-Columbia owned buildings in the metropolitan area. OCHA maintains a website and regular office hours to provide advice, resources and an online database of available housing.

What if a prerequisite class is not offered at my affiliate school?

Please speak with the liaison at your school to determine how the prerequisite class may be taken. Depending on the course, you may be able to take the class at another institution or through independent study.

What courses are used to calculate my GPA?

Your pre-engineering GPA includes all of the science and mathematics prerequisite Foundation Courses and Major-Specific Courses, as listed in our Curriculum Guide. Your overall GPA includes all courses you have completed towards your home institution’s degree, up through the spring semester of application.

What housing options are available for first-years?

First-year students have four distinct housing options, all located on the main quad of Columbia within minutes of every academic building and with easy access to Butler Library, Columbia’s main library, and Alfred Lerner Hall, the student center. John Jay Hall and Carman Hall are the only first-year exclusive living options. Hartley and Wallach Halls, collectively the Living and Learning Center, house students from all four classes. Furnald Hall houses first-year students and sophomores. New students are placed in one of the four options based on the preferences they submit in their housing applications.

How is housing selected for upperclassmen?

Students will enter into a lottery system in order to select their future housing; they may choose to group with friends and live in one of Columbia’s suites, or they may decide to enter into the lottery alone and live in one of Columbia’s many singles. Over 70% of all undergraduate rooms at Columbia are singles.

May I reapply to the Exchange as a Columbia College student if I was not initially admitted to as an incoming student?

Yes, a small number of current Columbia College students apply (or reapply) to the Columbia-Juilliard Exchange each academic year and occasionally students are admitted to participate for the following academic year. Once admitted into the Exchange, Columbia College students may continue each eligible academic year pending performance during annual juries.

May I be admitted to both Columbia College and Juilliard for the Bachelor of Music program but not be admitted to Juilliard specifically for the Exchange?

Yes, due to highly selective admissions for the Exchange, it is possible that applicants may only be admitted to Juilliard’s Bachelor of Music degree and not admitted to the Exchange, regardless of admission status at Columbia.

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