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Is Columbia a good choice for a low income student?

curethevoid17curethevoid17 7 replies33 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
edited August 15 in Columbia University
I might ED for Columbia and apply RD to the rest of the Ivy League schools but Columbia has always been my favorite because I’ve always enjoyed the big city life being born and raised in LA; at the same time this in particular worries me because of its location in New York City where the rent is ridiculously high more so than LA. My parents are of low income (<40,000)and we moved to a small town from LA because of how expensive the rent was getting. My question is what should I do if I do end up going to Columbia or any of the other Ivy Leagues and top schools in expensive cities in order to pay rent? Is working a job and studying effective? I’m going into pre law so I don’t know how long it takes to actually start earning money. I understand I might not even get into Columbia and this is all merely hypothetical. Sorry, but no one in my family has ever been to college here and don’t know how the whole rent and rooming process works in colleges.
edited August 15
21 replies
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Replies to: Is Columbia a good choice for a low income student?

  • skieuropeskieurope 38927 replies6879 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    All first year students are expected to live on-campus and 95% live on-campus for all 4 years. Rents in the neighborhood are prohibitively expensive,so for the vast majority, off-campus is not an option. The situation is the same at Harvard. At some other Ivy League schools, the off-campus rents are similar, if not lower, to the cost of dorms.

    Cost of housing is calculated as part of total cost of attendance in calculating FA.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29255 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Run your family finances, income and assets through Columbia ‘s Net Price Calculator. That will give you an idea of what Columbia will expect your family to pay.

    Columbia is among the most generous schools for financial aid for its undergraduates. As all schools that give some of their own money towards aid, THEY define low income and need, not the family. It comes down to hard numbers.

    Your expected housing expenses will be included in the aid package. As @skieurope said ^, most students live on campus
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  • Dancingmom518Dancingmom518 342 replies2 threadsRegistered User Member
    Columbia guarantees housing for all four years. Off-campus housing would not be affordable at all.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6597 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    also....Columbia just isn't for every student, no matter how smart or how much they love city life: it has a very strong personality all it's own (as do many of the schools you are considering). For a start, are you a student who will be excited about the Core? Once you get over the ego-stoking of admission to a famous name school, you have to actually go there. Be sure that you know enough about how famous name school fits the real you before applying- and for each famous name school you choose, find 2-3 similar schools with seriously higher acceptance rates.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29255 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    If and when you get accepted to Columbia, the college will address these concerns of yours. As long as the NPC is in line with your budget, your chances are good in terms of affordability at Columbia. Getting accepted is a whole other story
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  • jym626jym626 55360 replies2879 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 16
    Keep in mind some other expenses, such as the cost of getting to/from NYC from the LA area (if that is where you still live). Columbia has student discounts available (some are significant discounts, some are free access ) for many of the wonderful shops and activities (theater, etc) in NYC, ( here’s an article from 2017) https://www.columbiaspectator.com/required-reading/2017/07/17/what-discounts-can-your-cuidbcid-get-you/ but its still not cheap. While your COA will consider school-related expenses, there are other costs a student may incur that you might want to be mindful of.

    Could you qualify as a Questbridge or Posse applicant/candidate?
    edited August 16
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  • coolguy40coolguy40 2086 replies2 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    All you can do is apply and see what happens. Chances are lousy, so don't go in with any expectations. If you do get in, you might or might not be able to afford it. Also, check out scholarships. Try TCU, Baylor, and University of Alabama,
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  • MorningsiderMorningsider 97 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    It sucks being poor at a school like Columbia, surrounded by the delights of NYC that you can't afford. But there are plenty of ways to earn money. I was in better shape financially after joining the bartending agency. I also worked as a clerical temp for law firms and did many other jobs. So did all my friends who were poor. My grades suffered because I was working so much, but I did make it to graduation. I didn't have excessive student loan debt.
    What I wish I had done was join ROTC. Cadets get a full ride plus monthly stipend for living expenses, which is now $300-$500/month. My friend did this to attend Princeton since neither of his divorced parents would pay.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2378 replies5 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 24
    To answer the OP as direct as possible, Columbia is not a good choice for a low income student, especially one from CA, to echo what jym626 and morningsider have posted. If you do get in ED, I would not withdraw apps to other RD and EA colleges until I can compare the FA and cost of living expenses. I've been to Columbia a few times and being from the SF bay area, even I think Manhattan is expensive. I almost went there, and the reason I didn't was the other colleges being more affordable, and I was from a middle class family.
    edited August 24
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33596 replies369 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Bear in mind that you don't get into a school like Columbia because you (think you would) like NYC. That's not the college. You have to understand your match and chances of thriving at the U.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 38927 replies6879 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited August 24
    If you do get in ED, I would not withdraw apps to other RD and EA colleges until I can compare the FA and cost of living expenses.
    You say this like it's an ethical option. It's not. One does not need to withdraw other applications until the ED school sends the FA notification. In the unlikely event that Columbia waits until 4/1,the applicant would be able to compare FA offers. But realistically, an FA offer will come by January, at which time all other applications need to be pulled. This is in the ED agreement signed by the applicant, the parent,and the GC.

    Having said that, the applicant should do due diligence and run the NPC in advance. While it may not be 100% correct, it should be directionally accurate. If the NPC spits out a number that in not affordable, don't apply ED because the final FA offer will not make it any more affordable.
    edited August 24
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5404 replies1 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 24
    At the risk of stating the obvious and sounding like Dr Doom: Being from California, any Ivy League school is going to require significant travel costs. Be sure to take this into account. Be aware that if your parents are low income and live in California, they are not going to be able to afford to visit you in New York. Both the travel costs and hotel prices would be prohibitive. You also will need to spend a few dollars on winter gear, although New York will not be quite as bad in that regard as schools further to the north and east.

    To get into law school, it is important to have very good grades as an undergraduate. If you need to work more than 10 hours per week to pay for your education, then this could impact your grades. If you want to be able to afford law school, then minimizing or avoiding debt for undergrad would be wise.

    You have a lot of very good in-state options. I will admit that the Ivy League does tend to be very good for need based financial aid. Running the NPCs might give you some idea how an Ivy League school would compare with your in-state options.
    edited August 24
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2378 replies5 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "But realistically, an FA offer will come by January, at which time all other applications need to be pulled."
    Only if you agree to the FA package and accept ED, do you need to pull the apps. Columbia cannot legally force anyone to attend their university, and they really wouldn't want to anyway. ED is not legally binding. The issue the OP will have is that the in-state schools don't have EA so there won't be any UCs or CSUs to compare with, which could be more affordable.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29255 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The drawback of ED when you need financial aid is that you can not compare offers with RD schools. You decide if the offer is doable or not. Your counselor has signed the contract along with your parent and yourself. If you do not withdraw offers as stipulated in the signed contract, Columbia can withdraw the ED offer. Yes, people cheat and dishonor the contract that is not legally enforced in court. Some GCs take issue with such cheats and let the schools know. Yes, I’ve known kids who have lost their ED acceptances. Though state schools do not get auto informed, any schools that are in agreement with ED rules will be given notification of an ED acceptance and applications to them will be dropped.

    But , yes, there is a chance you can get away with breaking the terms of your signed statement that your parent and GC also signed.

    Columbia’s financial aid will likely be about as generous as it’s going to get from private schools. Your state schools are a whole other issue, as they do not use PROFILE info to come up with need, and they also have a lower sticker price.

    My son’s close friend’s roommate came from CA and finished school at NYU on financial aid. It was tight yes. NYU is not known to be generous with fin aid, and this young man said it wasn’t nearly enough—he and friends found cheaper digs off campus and he worked part time to make up the difference. Washington Hts where one of my kids lived is not far from Columbia U and cheaper-rents can be found there- though Columbia does well taking care of their own. Columbia dies take travel costs and living expenses into consideration when drafting their aid packages.

    I say give it a go.

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  • 3sonsmom3sonsmom 260 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @curethevoid17 Have you reviewed Questbridge? You may qualify.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2378 replies5 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "Columbia can withdraw the ED offer."
    If you can't afford Columbia, what's the bid deal in Columbia withdrawing the offer? You reneged on your ED commitment because of FA first, not a big deal if Columbia withdraws an offer that you already rejected.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29255 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Not only would the offer be denied, but any other school of its sort will be notified.

    However, more troubling to me, is advice to renege on a signed contract ... because you can. A lot of the college process depends upon honor, trust and integrity. GCs at schools that deal with these select schools a lot understand this well, as do most folks with integrity. When someone has a disregard for this integrity , I would think AOs evaluating the applications might want a heads up on such things. It is not unheard of that such notifications are privately given.

    If an ED applicant cannot afford the cost of a college with the financial aid package offered, the deal with ED is that the applicant withdraws from the ED contract as stipulated. Not that he accepts the contact and continues with the application process to compare later offers. There is a time constraint on the ED offer and a process to be released from it, all stipulated in a contract that student, parent and GC sign.
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  • sgopal2sgopal2 3422 replies49 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Not sure if I agree with the advice given by theloniusmonk. Backing out of an ED agreement can have far reaching implications. Not only for you, but for others at your high school as well.

    Once you get accepted ED, your guidance counselor will know about it, and will likely ask you to withdraw other applications. Only apply ED if you feel comfortable in not being able to compare competing FA offers.
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 264 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited August 31
    The OP is low income. Run the NPC to see if the estimated net price is in the ballpark. If it isn't, then the application would be a waste anyway, and no applicant is going to waste a valuable ED boost.

    Columbia does NOT commit to honoring its NPC. It specifically reserves the right to see ALL financial information, and this will ONLY happen after a complete application. Moreover, Columbia will NOT send a binding financial aid offer conditional on acceptance so you can see if the financial aid offer works (thereby allowing withdrawal of an ED application prior to decision).

    Apply ED. If you are accepted, review the financial aid offer. If it doesn't work, ask for an increase. If Columbia doesn't agree, turn down the ED acceptance and wait for RD decisions from other schools. I really don't understand what is unethical AT ALL about such an approach. Again, Columbia will NOT commit based on the NPC information, so it seems ridiculous to hold an applicant to her guess as to what the true financial aid will be. I agree that ED should not be used to "compare" offers from other schools, but that cannot happen here due to the timing as the OP's question was restricted to Ivies.
    edited August 31
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  • CU123CU123 3543 replies65 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    If your parents income is less then $40K with no significant assets you will be a full ride at Columbia as it would be at almost all of the top 20 universities that meet full need without loans. It would also include travel and other incidental costs. Run the NPC's at all of them and you will come out with an EFC near zero, still you will have to do work study and work during the summer to make the $5K or so that you would be required to contribute.
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