FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
The FAFSA is the need analysis form used to establish eligibility for federal student aid that is available to U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens. Students seeking funding from any of the following federal programs must complete the application annually: Direct Stafford Loan, Perkins Loan, Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, and Work-Study.
You are encouraged to complete your FAFSA online. Students are able to apply for and receive a PIN when completing a FAFSA on the Web or when applying for a PIN on the Department’s PIN website First-time PIN applicants will instantly receive a conditional PIN that will allow them to electronically sign their FAFSA on the Web. The conditional PIN can only be used to sign the original application that students are completing at the time they applied for the PIN. After receiving the PIN, applicants will be able to change the PIN to a number that is meaningful to them. Please refer to the FAFSA website for additional information. This process is dramatically quicker than sending in the paper FAFSA. A PIN is not required to fill out and submit a FAFSA, but it is the fastest way to sign your application. If you prefer to sign by paper, you must print out and send the government a signed Signature Page immediately upon completing the online application. A PIN will still be sent to you for future convenience once your application is processed. Students are able to obtain a paper FAFSA by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 800-433-3243. Once the completed paper FAFSA form is submitted, processing takes about four weeks. The paper form requires the Federal School Code for Columbia University, which is 002707.
For graduate students, parental information is not used in determining eligibility for federal funding. Therefore, you do not need to include your parental information on the FAFSA, even if you are applying for a grant.
Once the FAFSA is processed, you will be sent a Student Aid Report (SAR) containing the results of the federal need analysis. If you need to correct the information you submitted, make the corrections to your paper SAR and return it to the federal processor if you completed a paper FAFSA, or make your corrections online if you completed the FAFSA online.
We advise entering students applying for Law School grants to submit the FAFSA to the processor by March 1, even if they have not received an offer of admission yet. Although the Financial Aid Office processes loans throughout the academic year, we urge all loan applicants to file their FAFSA and their loan application materials by May 15 in order to ensure timely processing and the arrival of loan funds in August for the payment of fall term expenses. Otherwise, payments to the University may be considered late.
Remember, the FAFSA is not a loan application. You will also need to complete separate Master Promissory Note (MPN) forms based on the loan type (one for Federal Direct Stafford Loans and another for Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans) at the U.S. Department of Education website. Please refer to the Loan Applications section of our website for complete loan instructions.
Note: If you are an international student (not a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen), you are not eligible for federal aid and you may disregard the FAFSA requirement.