Hi. I'm going to be a senior next year and my dream school is Columbia. However, I've never been there. All I know is what I've heard from other people and the research that I've done (which is mostly just numbers, etc.). I think I love it (especially because it's in NYC) but I don't know for sure. I'm torn as to whether I should apply ED.
Reasons not to:
1) Don't know for sure whether I love Columbia or if it's the right school for me (although I strongly think it is).
2) I'm not sure about the financial aid package they would offer, but I assume it would be good (my parent's income is around $25,000).
1) Might push me over the edge from a Rejected to an Accepted
2) Less college essays to write (I'm just kidding)
Just for background, my GPA is:
Academic overall: 4.6 Academic 10-12: 4.7
SAT II: US History - 760, Math II - 770, Lit - 650 (taken twice and I want(ed) to major in LIT), Physics - 670
If you have any concerns about FA, I definitely wouldn't apply ED, especially as you've never been to the campus. Your stats are in line with the rest of the applicant pool, so I'd focus on finding a handful of schools to apply to and apply RD.
Is that your parents' combined income? Because if it is, Columbia gives really generous financial aid for that income bracket (so I've heard/seen by plugging in numbers to their FA calculator). If you're still not sure about that, you can plug in your own family's numbers to their calculator and see for yourself.
On the other hand, if you're not sure that you really love it and the only reason you have for thinking that you do is its location, I'd either visit the campus before applying or hold off on applying until the RD round (solely because ED is binding and you don't know whether the actual school matches your expectations until you've seen it for yourself). If things beyond the location (academics, etc) draw you to the school and they outweigh the possibility that you might not really like the campus personally, then go for it.
Well, I applied ED and was accepted to SEAS last fall, and honestly I did it kind of impulsively. Until I visited Vassar College and later Columbia, I was completely set on Vassar. I haven't started yet, but so far I am very happy with how things have been. Columbia has an amazing record for meeting students' financial aid needs, especially for ED applicants, because by applying with a binding contract, you show your dedication to and passion for your field of study at Columbia. If you can go visit before applying, I would highly suggest it. But I can tell you that financial aid is not a huge worry at Columbia. And knowing what school you're GOING to before anyone else even knows which ones they were accepted to is probably one of the most relieving feelings of all time.
I think you should probably visit columbia first and take a guided campus tour before you make your decision! Being on campus is a completely different experience than reading about a college online. over summer, my parents and I went on tours to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, MIT, UPenn, and Columbia. Originally, I thought that UPenn was my dream school. Before the tours, I seriously believed that it was the school for me and that I belonged there. However, my perceptions changed pretty drastically; UPenn just didn't feel right and instead, i fell in love with Yale, Columbia and Princeton.
The ED financial aid offer's being affordable is solely your decision; if it's not you tell the school thanks but no thanks and apply elsewhere RD. The risk is that this is the best offer you'll get, so applying ED is only for your "dream" school, where your only question is "Can I afford it?"
If your parents make $25k together (or each, even), you will effectively pay nothing. (Someone else mentioned some kind of nominal fee, but that was in the $2-3k range). This is true if your parents' income (and other revenue streams, I assume) are <$60k. If you can confirm this with your rents I don't think you should worry too much about finaid. And as people said, if they don't offer enough, you can negotiate with them or even turn them down outright.
I would visit at least once even if it's just to confirm that you don't *dis*like the place. For me (ED CC '16) I wasn't particularly psyched about Columbia but I definitely liked it more than other schools, which I was mostly apathetic about. Have you ever been to NYC before? Make sure you actually like it - and that you like Columbia's UWS location in Manhattan.