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Financial Aid: What is it and How to Apply

Financial Aid Overview

New for 2017-18! For the first time, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSAis available starting October 1. This earlier date makes completing your FAFSA easier than ever. In addition, you'll use 2015 income and tax information, imported directly from the IRS. This means you'll already have done your taxes when you complete the FAFSA, and you may be able to automatically import your tax information using the IRS Data Retrieval tool.

We recommend that you complete your FAFSA as early as possible. Go to fafsa.ed.gov for more information. 

What is Financial Aid?

Financial aid is defined as any type of financial assistance obtained for the purpose of going to college. Financial aid is primarily given to students in two forms: scholarships or grants (assistance you do not have to pay back) or student loans (assistance you will have to pay back after graduation and usually with interest). Click here for a list of funding sources.

Types of Federal Student Aid (chart)

Types of Financial Aid

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How do you apply?

Application for any type of financial aid begins with the FAFSA.

The FAFSA collects information about the student (and parents of dependent students) regarding income, number of family members, number of family members in college and plansfor college. A level of financial need for the student and his or her family is determined by this reported data. Columbia College Chicago uses the results of the FAFSA to determine the amount of assistance provided to the student for their education. Follow this easy process to complete your FAFSA.



The FAFSA Process

The FAFSA Process Overview (chart)

The FAFSA Process Overview

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How do I complete the FAFSA? (video) 

Starting this year, new changes make completing your FAFSA easier than ever. You can submit your 2017-18 FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016. You'll use 2015 income and tax information, imported directly from the IRS, when you complete the FAFSA online. If you encounter any difficulties while completing your FAFSA you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

Determining Dependency Status (video)

Determining Dependency Status (chart)

Determining Dependency Status

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Who is my parent when I fill out my FAFSA? (chart)

Who is my parent when I fill out my FAFSA

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Simple Steps to Transfer Tax Information Into Your FAFSA (chart)

Simple steps to transfer tax information into your FAFSA

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Additional Information

When can Columbia confirm receipt of my FAFSA?

After November 15, 2016, Columbia can begin confirming receipt of your FAFSA. If you complete your FAFSA after November 15, please know it takes 2-3 business days to confirm receipt. Please remember, we encourage all students to complete the FAFSA during the month of October.

What do I do next? (video)

Award Year 2016-2017

New Students: After successful completion of your FAFSA, Columbia College will send you an official Award Letter outlining your financial aid options within the month of March. This will be mailed to you and will include your next steps in the process. (Please remember that you also need to be admitted to the college to receive an Award Letter.) Please contact your respective Admissions Office on the status of your Admission at 312-369-7130.

Continuing Students: Once SFS receives your FAFSA, SFS will send an email to your Loopmail and an official Award Letter outlining your financial aid options.

When will SFS Begin Processing Award Letters for the 2017-18 academic year?

  • Estimated award letters will be sent on a rolling basis beginning in November. Please visit this page regularly for specific Award Letter processing dates as we will update this section as those dates become available.

What about Summer Aid?

Students who plan to attend the Summer 2017 session should be sure to create a summer financial plan.  There are several steps you must complete in addition to the Summer Aid Application to be reviewed for summer aid eligibility. To be sure you complete each step, understand the process and access the application, visit the SFS Create Your Summer Financial Plan page.  * Note: Continuing students, review the Create Your Summer Financial Plan page to learn how summer aid availability is impacted for full time students that utilized federal aid in Fall and Spring semesters.

Continuing Students

Although you may have gone through this process in the past, please continue to read all SFS communications during this time as application processes and regulations can change each academic year. SFS will email your Award letter 7-10 business days after receiving your FAFSA to your LOOP email account. The email will outline your specific awards and direct you to this site. If you misplace your email or you would like to review your awards again, please log into your OASIS account, click on the Student Financial Services tab and then Financial Aid Awards.

After February 15th Columbia can begin confirming receipt of your FAFSA.  If you complete your FAFSA after November 15, please know it takes 2-3 business days to confirm receipt.  Please remember, we encourage all students to complete the FAFSA during the month of October.