How to Cover Your College Application Fee: a Completed FAQs List

SAT and college application fee can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars.

Considering that the average college application fee is $43 and that students apply for an average of almost six schools, application fees can easily add up to more than $250. This is a cost for college spending that you should consider as your family budgets.

College Application Fee
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That said, there are some ways to cover those fees, in whole or in part.

Here, we share our insights about minimizing fees for college applications.

How much are college applications fees?

According to a study by US News, the average cost of a college application fee is about $43, and the most common fee is $50 for a college admission application.

In the most recent analysis, application fees for the Stanford University reached $90, with at least 50 Ivy League schools charging $75 per application.

The more exclusive the school generally, the more it will cost to apply.

But that is not the case at all. Some schools forego the application fee altogether, and most students with financial difficulties are allowed to apply for a fee waiver.

How to get college application fee waiver?

College application fee waivers and testing fee waivers can help to curb the cost of college application fee.

Here’s how you can get around some of them.

1. Ask for ACT and SAT fee waivers

You can get ACT and SAT fee waivers free of charge for taking up to two of each test.

Talk to your high school college or counselor for guidance to get either. Each test company allocates only a certain number of waivers to each high school, and it is up to the counselors of the school to distribute them on need basis.

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2. Request college application fee waivers

The SAT fee waiver is a gift that keeps on giving: Besides allowing you to take the test for free, it also allows you to skip the cost of applying for four colleges.

If you get a SAT waiver, in the fall of your senior year or when you get your SAT test scores, the College Board will send you application waivers.

If you have not received a SAT waiver, or if you have just wanted to apply to more than four schools for free, there are other ways to potentially waive those fees. You can apply for a waiver of some application fee directly through the college application, or fill out the NACAC fee waiver application form and submit it with your application.

There is no guarantee, however, that you will be able to obtain a fee waiver, or that a college will honor it if you do so; each campus may use its own authority.

3. Find colleges with no application fee

When you can’t get a fee waiver, not all hope is lost.

Some colleges give codes to students who attend certain college fairs or visit the campus of the school for free application. And many colleges simply do not charge fees for the application at all.

For instance, application for Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota; Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio; and Reed College in Portland, Oregon is free of charge.

4. Ask the college to waive the fee

But if everything else fails it doesn’t hurt just to ask the college to waive the fee. Call the admissions office yourself or ask your counselor at the high school to help endorse in your favor.

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What’s the difference between a college application fee waiver and an SAT fee waiver?

An SAT fee waiver allows you to register for the free SAT or SAT Subject Test. A waiver of a college application fee allows you to apply to college without paying a fee.

How to qualify for application fee waivers?

If any of the following statements are true, you will qualify for waiver of a college application fee:

  • You have received an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver, or are eligible for it.
  • You are enrolled in, or eligible for, the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) program.
  • Your family’s annual income falls within the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Guidelines on Income Eligibility.
  • You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that assists low-income students (e.g., TRIO programs like Upward Bound).
  • Your family is getting support from the public.
  • You live, or are homeless, in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home.
  • You are a state ward, or an orphan.

You may also qualify based on the personal knowledge of your family circumstances provided by your high school counselor.

How to get college application fee waiver for transfer students?

Transfer students who are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant may apply to colleges using the NACAC Request for Transfer Admission Application Fee Waiver Form. Send the form to the school’s admission office where you apply.

How to apply for college application fee waivers?

If the college provides application fee waivers (not all colleges do), instructions on how to apply should be included in the application of the college or on its website.

You can also access fee waiver forms through the Common Application, the Universal College Application, the Coalition Application, the National College Admission Counseling Association (NACAC) and the office of your counselor.

Many colleges will accept your or your counselor’s written request as well.

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What college applications are free?

There are many reasons why schools do not require an application fee for their school.

A lot is to increase the number of applicants. It might be a marketing scheme. They want the students to see that they are fair and open, and because there is no fee, you should apply to their school. This increases their pool of applicants, so they can be more selective.

Some of the top public institutions that don’t require application fees are the military colleges of the United States; the Military Academy, Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy.

Wellesley College is another impressive school, which is a private, all-girls MA college. Its acceptance rate is 30% and boasts an impressive 33 ACT composite score.

So while these schools may be relatively cheap to apply for, there’s nothing invaluable about the education you’ll earn.

Colleges with no application fee that rank in the top 100 schools in the US:

  • Carleton College, #41
  • Colby College, #70
  • Grinnell College, #50
  • Kenyon College, #75
  • Oberlin College, #85
  • Smith College, #99
  • United States Air Force Academy, #52
  • United States Military Academy, #40
  • United States Naval Academy, #11
  • Wellesley College, #43

Other schools who do not charge prospective students for applying include:

  • Bryn Mawr
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Centre College
  • Denison University
  • Kalamazoo College
  • Reed College
  • Rhodes College
  • Sewanee: The University of the South
  • Trinity University
  • Union College

Final thoughts

You may have many reasons not to apply to a college but it doesn’t have to be one of them not to afford the college application fee. Fee waivers are available to eligible students, and they can be obtained from various sources.

If you are looking for more applicable ways to pay for college fee, don’t lose the opportunity to check out these full ride scholarships to earn a degree for free.

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