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Financial Aid: What is it and How to Apply

Financial Aid Overview

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 Free Application for Federal Student Aid or more commonly known as 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 uses the results of the FAFSA to determine the amount of assistance provided to the student for their education. Follow the three-step process to complete a FAFSA each year.



The FAFSA Process

The FAFSA Process Overview (chart)

The FAFSA Process Overview

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How do I complete the FAFSA? (video) 

Student Financial Services has designed a three-step process to assist you in completing your FAFSA. The three-step process ensures your FAFSA is submitted in a timely manner, reduces paper submission, and results in a more accurate award letter for you.  Please complete the entire three-step process.  Student Financial Services has designed to guarantee you the best application experience. If you encounter any difficulties while completing your FAFSA you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at1-800-4FED-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 February 15th Columbia can begin confirming receipt of your FAFSA. If you complete your FAFSA after February 15th, 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 January.

What do I do next? (video)

After successful completion of your FAFSA, Columbia College will send you an official Award Letter outlining your financial aid options within 7-10 business days. 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.

When will Student Financial Services Begin Processing Award Letters for the 2015-2016 academic year?

  • New Freshmen Award Letters for Fall 2015 Admission Begin-March 1, 2015.
  • Continuing Student Award Letters Begin-March 15, 2015.
What about Summer Aid?

Students who plan to attend the Summer 2015 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 February 15th, 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 January.