Eligibility for a Scholarship Grant: Independence and Dependence

For purposes of establishing eligibility for the Federal Loan and the Federal Work-Study programs, all graduate-level students are considered independent. This means that the FAFSA you submit does not require parental information, and that your eligibility for Federal Loans and/or Federal Work-Study will be determined on the basis of your resources, and those of your spouse (if applicable).

However, for consideration for institutional funds, such as grants and Columbia University loans, complete family and parental information is required on the CSS Profile application from both custodial and non-custodial parents. If your parents have separate households (unmarried, separated, or divorced), you must provide complete financial information for both parental households on the application.

In this era of scarce resources, our guiding policy is to assist students from the neediest families. Our institutional funds are distributed primarily to students with limited personal and family resources. Regardless of your age, marital status, or dependency status for tax purposes, our grant decision will be based on an analysis of your family’s financial strength.

Decisions to exempt individual students from the requirement to provide information from both parents are made on an individual basis, and only in rare and extreme cases. If you wish to be considered for this exemption, please submit a written appeal to Ms. Yaa Dwamena, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, as early as possible, explaining the circumstances and requesting a waiver of the requirement. For cases in which the student has a second parent who is living, the request for a waiver should include supporting documentation (e.g., court documents, letter from an attorney, social worker, member of clergy, etc.) to strengthen your appeal.

For admitted students, we review the financial aid application once we have received the complete CSS Profile application and all required forms. Award letters are sent beginning in late March or early April.

For continuing students, renewal award letters are sent beginning in July, once the Financial Aid Office has processed a student’s loans.