Archive for Financial Aid

SIPA Scholarships: Regional, International Opportunities

As we near our fellowship aid deadline on January 5th, here’s some information about regional, international scholarships. Among SIPA’s scholarships and fellowships are a number that are available to students from (or in some cases, studying) a particular country or region of the world.  Our scholarships are merit-based and competitive. The full list of gifts and endowed funds can be found here.

 The Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellowship: Available to Brazilian students, or those of other nationalities who can demonstrate a strong interest in social change in Brazil.

The Robert Legvold Fellowship Fund: Available to residents of, or immigrants from, the former Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, the former East Germany, Romania, Mongolia, Cuba or Vietnam.

The Kathryn Wasserman Davis Fellowship:  This award is available to students from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the former Yugoslavia, China or Taiwan.

The Taha Fund:  This award is for students who are residents of Iraq or Turkey, or other international students who have expressed a serious interest in the Middle East as indicated by work experience, language training, course work, etc.

The Shetty and Ahmad Endowment: This fellowship is available to students who have resided in India or Pakistan and/or are interested in sustainable development.

The Magzhan Auezov Fellowship: The fellowship was established for residents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, or to students studying topics related to that region of Central Asia.

The Columbia Scholarship Program for Displaced Persons: Full tuition and living expenses for students displaced as the result of the civil war in Syria.

The Rambourg Fellowship:  This new award provides full expenses for students from Tunisia.

We also encourage you to view our Financial Aid external funding sources for more information about scholarships from charitable or professional organizations, employers, philanthropic groups, or agencies in other countries. These resources have varying eligibility criteria, deadlines, and contact information. Our financial aid team is dedicated to helping you explore all available means to finance your graduate education. Make sure that you review our financial aid page for more details about financial planning and investing in your graduate education.

Common SIPA stresses and their cures

From 2016:

When we talk about graduate school, especially at elite institutions, we inevitably talk about stress. But Seeples are unique, and so are their sources of stress. Read-on for some of the most common ones, and their cures:

  1. Not having enough money: Refer to my “Managing A Student Budget” post back in February 2016. You may feel poor now, but you won’t for long, and there are ways to deal with the costs of a SIPA education and life in New York. Take advantage of cost-managing resources (campus and off-campus), try finding additional sources of income, and manage your expectations.
  2. Being homesick: See my post on conquering homesickness. From immersing yourself in work, to making new friends and exploring New York, to connecting with your roots and taking trips home when you can, there are countless ways to mitigate the painful effects of being away from home.
  3. Feeling overwhelmed: Take it easy, or rather, take it one activity/task/day at a time. SIPA can be a lot to swallow, between the academic, the professional and the social, but you wouldn’t have gotten in if we hadn’t believed you could do it, and thrive! There are campus resources available for help, from academic support in OSA, to counseling at Columbia Health. Reach out if you feel like you’re drowning, there’s always a solution!
  4. Having your order messed up at (insert café): Be it Alice’s, Artopolis, Nous, etc., we have all had our share of “I asked for a pistachio muffin and a hot latte, not a cold pistachio latte and a coffee-flavored muffin!” moments. It can be particularly stressful when you’re rushing to class, or have a long line of people behind you. Be nice (try! I don’t always succeed, especially in the face of repeated “offenses”), explain your order again, and be patient while the staff gets it together. Or, if you’re truly at wits’ end (like me), ask for your money back and leave empty-handed. Sometimes it’s a relief to just step away.
  5. Administration Woes: Sometimes it’s the student worker in OSA who doesn’t know the answer to your question, or a mistype in an official document you had requested. Mistakes happen, it’s life, and nobody (not even Ivy League schools) is perfect! So take a deep breath, and go through the same steps as for # 4 above. Since leaving empty-handed is less realistic than for # 4, try your best to work with the administration to resolve your issue. Help them help you! Not only will they be grateful for your professionalism, patience and resourcefulness, you will also likely get the problem solved faster!
  6. Professor Woes: The professor didn’t clarify an assignment, or didn’t provide resources to find course readings, or instituted a policy you disagree with/which has the potential to harm your academic performance (such as the dreaded “no laptops” policy). Dialogue is your best friend! Talk to the professor, in person, if possible. Explain your needs, and your position (sometimes professors can be unaware of these), and ask if they can either 1. Change the policy or 2. Make an exception. For e.g., someone in my classes had a documented disability, but, due to miscommunication from the appropriate office, the professor never found out about it, and banned laptop use in class. After the student explained that he was unable to take notes by hand, the professor made an exception in their case. Likewise, when I told one of my professors a book on the syllabus was not available in the library (and was quite expensive to buy), she lent me her copy, and later put it on Reserves in the library for the course. Speaking out can sometimes help your peers, and generations of students who come after you.
  7. Having to buy things you can get for free: This applies to many items, from your graduation caps and gowns (my undergraduate loaned them to us for free, for the graduation ceremony, and at SIPA, I am borrowing them from a SIPA alumna who bought them), to books (professors may recommend that you buy them, but you are in no way obligated to! You can also borrow them, read them at the library, or find them online, if they are available), to materials (such as the guide for Professional Development course – it is really just an introductory guide on how to write resumes, cover letters and the likes, and you can either find that information online, or borrow the guide from a second-year SIPA student. You are required to bring it to one session of the class, but it is barely used).
  8. Housing Woes: You have rats. You roommate plays the saxophone at 3 AM. There is no hot water. The elevator is broken. Talk to Columbia Housing, and seek other resources within Columbia and SIPA. Even if resources are not immediately available, people may have information that can help you. Another SIPA friend of mine had to move out from her apartment in a matter of weeks because her landlady was apparently renting out the apartment illegally. She was casually talking to one of the Deans about it, and they happened to know someone who was looking to sublet their apartment for the year, so she moved into a new building that same week. SIPA/Columbia are a vast network, and this network can offer a multitude of solutions if you reach out.
  9. Stressing about unnecessary things: If # 4 is a genuine source of stress, and you nodded in agreement, instead of just rolling your eyes and scrolling down, then, in Ron Weasley’s words, you need to reassess your priorities! :))
[Image by Kaitlyn Wells | Yes, that’s a SIPA stress ball!]

What admitted students want to know about paying for SIPA

Have questions about billing and payments, work study, or student loans? Our financial aid staff compiled a list of commonly-asked questions and answers to help alleviate some of these concerns.

Student Loan Questions:

I was only awarded the Direct Unsubsidized Loan for $20,500 but I need more funding. What are my options?
When you submit the FAFSA, we can package you with the Direct Unsubsidized Loan because it does not require a credit check or additional application. For graduate students, the annual cap for the Unsubsidized Loan is $20,500,  however, you can also apply for a Graduate PLUS loan.  If you have already received your award notification, please see the Messages tab of NetPartner (  Beneath the section labeled “Unmet Financial Need,” you will find the application and you will see your remaining amount of need which is the maximum you can borrow in a Graduate PLUS or similar private loan.

When do I need to apply for loans/complete entrance counseling/sign the promissory notes?
We recommend you have your aid in place no later than early August. Please log in to NetPartner and be sure to accept your awards on the Accept Awards tab and review the Messages and Documents tabs for any outstanding materials.

When and how will the loan be disbursed?
Loans are divided evenly between the terms you are enrolled and disbursed to your Columbia student account at the beginning of each semester.

If I borrowed loans to cover living expenses, how and when will that money be refunded to me?
We strongly encourage you to set up direct deposit (see for instructions).  Any amount you borrowed in excess of the tuition and fees for the semester will be issued as a refund to you by the second week of classes after the loan has disbursed to your student bill and after you have registered for classes (assuming you have also completed all the necessary steps on NetPartner).

Can international students borrow student loans?
There are private lenders who make loans available to international students, but most require a US citizen to co-sign. Go to for more information. We have learned of two lenders who will make loans to international students without a co-signer requirement: and

Work Study Questions:

Do I have to accept Federal Work Study? How does it work? Will it be paid towards the bill? How do I find a job?  Should I wait until I know my class schedule to look for a job?
If you were eligible for work study, it was included in your financial aid notification. You are not required to accept it. You will need to find an eligible position and then the money will be paid out to you like a regular salary subject to taxes (it is not applied to your bill). We recommend you start searching for positions and then you can work out the specific schedule after you are hired. More info including how to search for positions is at:

Billing & Payment Questions:

Please note the SIPA Financial Aid Office does not charge tuition or collect payment. The office responsible for these procedures is the Student Financial Services Office. More info is:  

When will I receive my first bill?
The fall statement will be issued August 14 and due September 15. The full schedule is here.

What happens with the admission deposit I paid?
It will be applied towards the charges for the first semester you are enrolled and you will see the credit on SSOL when you review your student account.

Is there a payment plan?
Yes, for the fall and spring terms (it is not available for the summer).

Can I wire money from a foreign bank to pay my bill?
Yes, please see

Can I waive the health insurance and health services fee?
Domestic full-time students can waive the insurance if they have alternate coverage that meets the criteria. The waiver for the fall term will not be available until July 15 and will be due September 30.  Students cannot waive the health services fee.

If I’m living in Columbia housing, will my rent be on the bill?
Most students in University housing will need to pay their rent separately.

My employer/sponsor is going to pay my bill and needs to receive an invoice from Columbia.  What do I do?   
You will need to set up third party billing.  Please also email our office with a copy of your sponsorship letter.

I’m receiving an external scholarship.  Do I notify you?  Where can they send the payment?
Please email our office the details. They can mail the check to:

Student Financial Services
210 Kent Hall
Attn: Cashiers office
1140 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Other Helpful Resources at Columbia University:

Info for International Students:

Office of Military and Veterans Affairs:

Next steps for Fall 2017 admitted students

This post was adapted from a previous version.

Most of you reading this blog post received the admission decision you were hoping to get when you applied to SIPA this year. You should be proud of your achievement. There was a competitive applicant pool and your application was exemplary. And now that the celebrations have died down a bit, I wanted to recap a few things that every newly-admitted student should know going forward.

The Welcome Portal

The Welcome Portal has everything you need regarding next steps. It tells you about upcoming deadlines and special events, offers advice on how to apply for student housing, includes details about Admitted Students’ Day in April, and even explains the visa process and ALP requirement for international students. So review the Welcome Portal to explore the many benefits of being a Columbia University student. This is also where you’ll go to accept your admissions offer by April 15/May 1, depending on what your admission letter says. (Log-in details for the Welcome Portal may be found in your admissions letter.)

I also invite you to follow us on Instagram (@Columbia.SIPA) and share your admissions story with us!

Your Status Page

Before the academic term starts, you’re going to get sick and tired of me mentioning the Status Page (especially through reminder emails). But I only bug you because I care, and I want you to start off the school year without any delays. Your Status Page is where you go to review your Application Checklist. There are a few items on your checklist that we must have in order to finalize your academic record before August 2017. And if your record isn’t finalized, you won’t be able to register for classes during Fall 2017 orientation. (Gasp!)

Official Documents
When you review the Welcome Portal, you’ll notice a section that outlines upcoming deadlines for the Application Checklist materials, also known as official documents. These are hard deadlines for the Admissions Office to receive your official documents, mainly transcripts and test scores. I can guarantee that 90% of you have not submitted all of your official documents to our office. Here’s what I mean: You applied to SIPA. You submitted a scanned copy of your college transcript(s). You were admitted to SIPA with that scanned transcript(s). But guess what, it’s still a scan of a transcript, which means it is an unofficial copy. Even if your college registrar’s office handed you an official transcript, since you opened it and scanned it, we must consider it as an unofficial copy. It’s technically been altered, so it doesn’t count as an official document.

To help you remember that fact, I added these nifty little notifications at the top of your Status Page that tells you which documents we’re missing.


But wait, your Status Page has a green checkmark next to your transcript(s) and you’re still seeing these notifications. Well, chances are the notifications are there for a reason. The checklist is referring to your unofficial copy tied to your admissions application: just cross check the upload date and hover over the checkmark to see if the pop-up text reads “Received Copy” or “Received.” Still confused? Then read this blog post,  “Dissecting the Application Checklist.” (And yes, the blog post is highlighted in yellow on your Status Page for all time.) (P.S. These messages may not appear on your Status Page until after you have responded to your admission offer and paid the enrollment deposit.)

Hover over the check mark to confirm to see if the document was an unofficial or official copy.


Got it now? Good! The process for sending us your official transcripts and test scores is outlined in the Welcome Portal. I’ve also included it below:

Official transcripts and test scores are due by July 1, 2017, unless instructed otherwise. (International students who won’t have conferred degrees until after the deadline can email us and we’ll make a note in their account.)

Official test scores must be sent to us by the testing company (e.g., ETS, GMAC).

  • GRE/TOEFL ibt school code: 2161 (no department code)
  • GMAT school code: MIA is QF8-64-56; MPA is QF8-64-99

You may mail your official transcripts to:

Columbia University | SIPA
Office of Admissions & Financial Aid
514 West 113th Street
New York, New York 10025

Or email to, but the transcripts must be sent from the registrar’s office through a service like eSCRIP-SAFE in order to be considered official.

Official Test Scores
The same rules outlined above apply to your official test scores. But if you truly know you sent us your official scores, there may be a workaround from re-ordering your test scores. Chances are your application name and email address are not recorded the same as the name and email address you registered to take the GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS with a few months ago. (You may recall us warning against this in the application instructions.) Thus, we couldn’t match the exam to your account because of the mismatch. If that’s the case, contact the testing center and confirm your full name, date of birth and email address associated with your account. You’ll need to send us that information, along with the batch number/cycle number for GRE and TOEFL scores; the appointment number and identification number for GMAT scores; or send us the official score report for IELTS scores.

Conditional Admission

Supplemental Quant

Some students are required to take additional quantitative preparation prior to enrolling at SIPA. Follow the instructions in your admission letter, but it basically says this:

To complete this requirement (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), you must take two courses in Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics or a single combined course in Principles of Economics.

These courses may be physical or virtual (online) but must be from an accredited academic institution. This course can be completed abroad as long as the institution is accredited in its home country. If you’re unsure, check the university’s website for their accreditation notice or consult with World Education Services for assistance. Free courses through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) or certificate programs through Coursera and other online services do not fulfill this requirement. Successful completion is defined as a letter grade of B or higher or its numerical equivalent.  I can’t recommend any institution over another, so, unfortunately, I can’t offer further guidance on where to complete this requirement.

Please submit final transcripts verifying your successful completion to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2017. If you are completing the economics course(s) during the summer, you must send proof of course registration to the Admissions Office by July 1, 2017; the final transcript must be received by the Admissions Office no later than August 18, 2017. By completing this requirement, your admission to SIPA will become final.

SIPA Summer and/or Fall ALP

Some international students are required to enroll in summer and/or fall ALP as a condition of their admission. Your admission letter states if you are required to complete this coursework. I’ve already gotten several inquiries about waiving this requirement, and the answer is no. This is a policy set by the university and we cannot change it. The only way to waive out of it (as described in the admission letter/Welcome Portal), is to provide new TOEFL or IELTS scores that show at least a score of 110 on the TOEFL or 7.5 on the IELTS. Improved scores must be submitted to the Admissions Office no later than June 1, 2017.

All About Money

Your Admissions Deposit
You have until the date on your admission letter to accept your enrollment offer AND pay the $2,000.00 USD admission deposit. You do not have to pay these items at the same time. So you can submit your response form and select “yes,” and then access your Status Page in a couple weeks to make the deposit payment. However, your deposit payment must be paid in full at once (no partial payments). This should be paid through the online portal. Just click on the corresponding hyperlink to submit your payment. And keep in mind that you’ll  continue to see a lovely reminder (below) on your Status Page until your deposit is paid, and only after you’ve submitted your response form.

Financial Aid & Fellowships
If you received a scholarship or fellowship, you will have received a separate notification letter about your funding along with your letter of admission. (Early-action candidates had to wait until now to learn about their funding status.) For domestic students, we’ll also communicate student loans and work-study details in award letters, but you’ll only receive that letter after you’ve submitted a FAFSA at, using school code 002707. In order to be considered for financial aid, it’s important that you submit your FAFSA as soon as possible. The sooner you submit it, the sooner our financial aid staff can issue your award letter. Most financial aid packages are released one to two weeks after your FAFSA is received.


To see your funding letters, go to your Status Page, scroll down to where it says Status Update and click on the View Update link. From there, you’ll be directed to your admission letter (confetti! yay!). Then you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of your letter. This is where you’ll see if you have one (or several) letters available to read. If there’s an additional dated hyperlink then that means you have another message in your account. So click on it!

All students, whether funded their first year or not, will be able to apply for second-year funding. Most of this funding is in the form of assistantships for second-year students who succeeded in their first year of studies. (You’ll learn more about these opportunities during the spring semester of your first year.)

We also encourage you to visit for more information about funding your education, which includes a database of external funding opportunities.

Tuition, Fees, and Billing
Annually, Columbia University releases the estimated cost of attendance. To date, we only have access to 2017-18 figures. You can review them here. We won’t know how much tuition will increase

Regarding your tuition bill: this will be generated closer to the start of the academic term. You also have the option to set up a payment plan or coordinate your payments with a third-party sponsor. For more information on that process, browse the Student Financial Services website. (Note: The Office of Admissions & Financial Aid is not involved in this process.) You can also browse this site to get a historical look at the tuition and fees SIPA (Columbia University) has charged each year.

Contact Us

If any admitted students have any specific financial aid or fellowship inquiries, please email them with a descriptive and informative subject line to Admissions queries can continue to go to or

That’s all the advice I have for now. If you need anything give us a call or send an email. And once again, congratulations to our admitted students!

A Seeple’s take on managing a student budget

Being a student generally means you’re poor. Or you feel poor. There, I’ve said it! Now, that’s not necessarily the case for everyone, or all the time, or an inescapable situation. SIPA makes shrinking budgets particularly painful, because most students come from working for a few years before SIPA (it is a graduate/professional school, after all), and losing that stream of full-time income can be downright depressing. However, fear not, future or current SEEPLES, there is a method to the (financial) madness! Read on!

If you’re lucky enough to have generous support from your family, significant other, awesome government, etc., and ALL of your living and tuition expenses are covered, great! You may read the rest of this post as pure amusement or if you really care about saving a few pennies. But really, you can just skip the rest of the post and go have a relaxing afternoon!

For the rest of us plebes: it really comes down to three things: take advantage of cost-managing resources (campus and off-campus), try finding additional sources of income, and manage your expectations.

  1. Cost-managing resources: while general wisdom dictates that being a student is financially sucky, I tend to disagree. Students have a variety of perks available to them, which allow them to get access to everything from academic resources to leisure/entertainment choices for a fraction of the cost “normal people” have to pay for them. A few of my personal favorites include:
    • Cuts on buying and renting books (if you think you need to pay at all! I haven’t bought a book since my freshman year of college. They’re all usually at the library, or the profs have copies you can borrow).
    • Cuts on electronic and IT equipment and software (stores from Apple to B&H offer student discounts)
    • Fitness/physical education discounts at gyms throughout the city, including Columbia’s own Dodge Fitness Center, where you get special rates
    • Entertainment/art discounts (see Columbia’s Art Initiative for free concerts and plays, discounted performances, and special events; also, if you’re a Met Opera fan, like me, check out their Met Students Program – you pay $ 25 for seats that are normally in the hundreds!) Cost management also includes assiduous financial aid research – apply to everything you are eligible for!
    • You should also talk to the Admissions and Financial Aid Office, OSA, advisors, etc., and identify external and within-Columbia/SIPA fellowships, scholarships and funds you can apply for. I had my second year and half of my first year entirely covered, tuition-wise, all thanks to fellowships and scholarships! I also got reimbursed for participating in conferences and other academic opportunities, such as research fellowships.
  2. Find additional sources of income: from campus opportunities (assistantships: TA-ships, PA-ships, Reader-ships; paid research opportunities; fellowships and scholarships) to off-campus streams of income (paid internships, part-time jobs, consultancies, etc.), you will find that with careful planning and excellent time-management skills, SIPA allows for enough room to take advantage of these options. But it’s up to you to find them. They will rarely fall into your lap. I have successfully supplemented my income with most of the above-mentioned (some of the oddest, and least-SIPA related have involved modeling and selling stock photography. Some of the most-SIPA related have included paid research and assistantships).
  3. Manage your expectations: you will see this stressed everywhere, and even though I’m not personally a great believer in it (do you adjust your dreams to your life, or your life to your dreams?), it is worth mentioning. My mother always reminds me that I’m a “student” now (again! gah!), and that I’m supposed to live within my means. Luckily, I have a SO who disagrees, and an ambitious, resourceful personality that helps me in finding opportunities to support my needs and interests. But generally, yes, it is a very wise and mature approach to downsize your travel, living arrangement, eating preferences, entertainment, etc. to match your available resources while at SIPA. It might hurt in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it, and remember: it’s temporary!

So there you have it, peeps, the essence of managing a student budget! Fret not, you will not be on it for long! 🙂

[Edited Photo by Donald Bowers Photography | Adriana Popa, MIA 2016, holding stacks of money and listening to music, because why not?!]

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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