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How Can I Avoid College Application Fees and Save Money?

College application fees can stack up quickly. Here's some expert advice on fee waivers, how to know if you're eligible, and where to get them

Ciera GrahamDr. Ciera Graham
K–12 Manager
City of Seattle
Attending college is extremely expensive, and application fees are often an unexpected out-of-pocket expense. Application fees normally fall within the range of $30–$80, with Ivy League and other selective schools charging a lot more. For students applying to multiple colleges, these fees can be a serious obstacle. So don’t be afraid to ask about fee waivers! This is a great way to remove one financial barrier to college entry. College application fee waivers eliminate the cost of applying, but they’re only given to students and families who qualify. If you meet at least one of the following criteria set by the Common App, you’re eligible for their application fee waiver:

  • You’re enrolled in or eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced-Price Lunch program.
  • Your family income meets the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
  • You’re enrolled in a program that serves low-income students, like Upward Bound.
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in federally subsidized public housing or a foster home, or you are homeless.
  • You’re a ward of the state or an orphan.
  • You already have an SAT or ACT fee waiver.

If you meet at least one of the above criteria, there are multiple ways to get a college application fee waiver. If you’re applying via the Common App, you can request a fee waiver for any school that accepts the universal application. Once the waiver request is made, you will electronically sign this section and provide a supporting statement from a college counselor or designated school official.

If you’re applying for schools that don’t utilize the Common Application, you should ask your high school counselor about an alternative fee waiver form. These forms require basic information and ask you to specify an indicator of economic need. After completing this form, your counselor will need to sign it for you. Alternatively, you can also contact each school’s admission office and ask about their application fee waiver process.

Another alternative solution is specifically looking for and applying to schools with no admission costs, like the ones on this list of Colleges With No Undergraduate Application Fees.

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