Six-Step Guide to Applying for US Federal Loans

In order to receive a US federal loan, a student must be a US citizen or an eligible non-citizen admitted as at least a half-time student in a degree program and making satisfactory academic progress. 

  1. Review the Graduate Financial Aid information available on Columbia University’s Student Financial Services website, including the Disclosure on Lender Information and the Graduate Federal Aid section, which discusses eligibility requirements, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), entrance interviews, and general information about federal loans.
  2. Submit a FAFSA online. The FAFSA opens on October 1 of each year, and students should apply as early as possible. Your Federal Student Aid Report (SAR) should list Columbia's federal school code (002707); if the code has been listed on your FAFSA, then it is very likely that your application has been sent to Columbia University. You may log into Student Services Online (SSOL) to track receipt of your FAFSA by GSAS (via the "Award Info and Document Tracking" section). To track receipt, you will need your 10-digit CUID number (beginning with C00), which is available at the top of each page in SSOL in the "Viewing Options" area.
  3. Review the Cost of Attendance page to determine your overall cost. Note that you may only borrow up to your total cost of attendance (which includes tuition, fees, living expenses, allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and other expenses).
  4. Submit the Request for Loans and/or Federal Work-Study to the GSAS Office of Financial Aid (gsas-finaid [at] columbia.edu; 107 Low Library). You may track receipt of your application via the Document Tracking section of SSOL. (GSAS does not pre-package loans based on the FAFSA alone; the Request for Loans and/or Federal Work-Study form must also be submitted in order for GSAS to start the process.)
  5. Submit your Master Promissory Note according to the following procedure:
    Federal Direct Unsubsidized and/or Graduate PLUS Loans: Submit a Master Promissory Note to the Direct Loan Servicing Center through StudentLoans.gov.
  6. Complete Federal Entrance Counseling according to the following procedure:
    Federal Direct Unsubsidized and/or Graduate PLUS Loans: The Federal Entrance Counseling module is available through StudentLoans.gov.

Once your loan has been certified and fully processed by the Financial Aid Office, GSAS can authorize a loan disbursement to your student account. After charges have been paid, you will be eligible to receive any remaining credit balance as a refund.