How to Get an ACT or SAT Fee Waiver

 August 20, 2019
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A college education can lead to a high-paying job, but you’ll have to invest some of your own money first to get that degree. Even before you pay tuition, you’ll need to cover costs of college applications and admissions tests, like the SAT or ACT. Fortunately, qualifying students can get an ACT or SAT fee waiver to take these tests for free.

If you feel like admissions tests pose a financial burden for you or your family, find out if you can qualify for an ACT or SAT fee waiver. Here are some of the questions we’ll answer:

How much do admissions tests cost anyway?

Although a handful of colleges don’t require standardized test scores, the majority still want to see how you did on the ACT or SAT. Plus, some colleges want to see scores from one, two or three SAT Subject Tests, which gauge your knowledge in specific subject areas, such as biology or Spanish.

Here are the fees for these admissions tests for the 2019-2020 year:

Test Registration fee
ACT $50.50 (no Writing section); $67 (with Writing section)
SAT $49.50 (no Essay section); $64.50 (with Essay section)
SAT Subject Test* $26 for registration; $22 for most individual tests; $26 for language tests with a listening section
*The SAT Subject Test registration fee lets you take up to three subject tests in one day, as long as you pay an additional fee for each test. So if you’re taking three Subject Tests, your total cost could be between $92 and $104.

Don’t forget that students often choose to take the ACT or SAT multiple times to improve their scores, so if you’re testing more than once, your fees could seriously add up.

What do ACT and SAT fee waivers cover?

If you’re worried you can’t afford the testing fees, you might qualify for an ACT or SAT fee waiver, each of which waives testing fees completely. Here’s what they cover:

  • ACT fee waiver: Covers the full cost of the ACT exam, with or without the optional Writing section, for 11th and 12th graders. You can request up to two ACT fee waivers. You’ll also get free score reports to send to colleges.
  • SAT fee waiver: Covers the full cost of the SAT, with or without the optional essay section, as long as you take it in 11th or 12th grade. It also covers the non-regional testing fee for any U.S. students testing internationally. You can receive a maximum of two SAT fee waivers. If you get an SAT fee waiver, you can also send free SAT score reports to colleges and request two Question and Answer Service (QAS) or Student Answer Service (SAS) reports if you want a more detailed look at your performance on the test.
  • SAT Subject Test fee waiver: Covers the registration fee and test fees for up to three tests, which you can take anytime if you’re in grades 9 to 12. You can request two of these fee waivers, meaning you could take up to six SAT Subject Tests for free.

While fee waivers let you take the test for free, you’re on your own if you want to test for a third or fourth time. Prepare well in advance of your test date so you’re satisfied with your scores after one or two attempts.

Who’s eligible for an ACT or SAT fee waiver?

To get your hands on an ACT or SAT fee waiver, you’ll need to meet at least one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be enrolled in or eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • Have an annual family income that falls within the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Income Eligibility Guidelines.
  • Be enrolled in a program that helps students from low-income families, such as Upward Bound.
  • Be in a family that receives public assistance.
  • Live in federally subsidized public housing, live in a foster home, or be homeless.
  • Be a ward of the state or an orphan.

This chart shows the Income Eligibility Guidelines for the free and reduced lunch program for the 2019-2020 year.

Household size Annual income for reduced price meals Annual income for free meals
1 $23,107 $16,237
2 $31,284 $21,983
3 $39,461 $27,729
4 $47,638 $33,475
5 $55,815 $39,221
6 $63,992 $44,967
7 $72,169 $50,713
8 $80,346 $56,459

Note that an SAT fee waiver will cover registration fees for students testing out of the country, but an ACT fee waiver only works for students testing in the United States, a U.S. territory or Puerto Rico.

How to get a fee waiver for your college admissions tests

If you qualify for an admissions test fee waiver, you should be able to get one from your school counselor. The ACT organization and the College Board, which administers the SAT, both send the fee waivers directly to high schools.

In fact, your school counselor might reach out to you before you’ve even started thinking about how to pay for admissions tests. But if they don’t, contact your counselor about getting a fee waiver.

If you aren’t on the free or reduced lunch program but have another qualifying reason, you might need to provide some supporting documentation. Home-schooled students can also get fee waivers — if this is you, reach out to your local public high school.

If for whatever reason your counselor can’t help you, try getting in touch with the testing organizations directly. You can find contact information on the College Board site and the ACT site.

Admissions test fee waivers could save you money on college applications too

Applying to college is already a stressful process, and not being able to afford admissions tests only adds to your worry. If you’re concerned about paying for the ACT or SAT, find out if you can qualify for that fee waiver.

Not only will these waivers cover your testing costs, but they could help you get college application fee waivers too. After you use an SAT fee waiver, for instance, you can apply for free at the College Board’s more than 2,000 participating colleges.

And if you opted for the ACT, you can request college application fee waivers by confirming you already got a testing waiver. By exploring your options for testing and college application fee waivers, you can make the process as affordable as possible.

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