When I was a high school senior, my classmates applied to dozens of schools. Dream schools, reach schools, safe schools — they spent hundreds on application fees, even to apply to schools they didn’t really want to attend.
I, on the other hand, was determined to save money. I applied to just three colleges, all of which I knew would accept me. I wanted to compare scholarship offers to find the cheapest one. But applying to the three schools cost me $150, which I wasn’t prepared for.
As I found out, application fees can add up quickly. For low-income students, the cost can prevent them from applying to enough schools, or might cause them to skip college altogether.
That’s why it’s important to know about waiver programs that will cover the cost of your application fees. By finding these programs, you can apply to multiple schools without worrying about finding extra money.
Here’s what you need to know about college application fee waiver programs.
Applying to colleges can cost hundreds
Most college experts recommend that you apply to at least five to eight schools to maximize your chance of a university accepting you and finding a good fit. The average fee to apply is $42, but some schools charge as much as $90. If you applied to eight schools who charge the average fee, you’d pay $336 in fees.
Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the National College Access Network, said that high costs can make applying to multiple schools impossible for some.
“If they [families] aren’t aware of how to access application fees, which is a burden itself, then they may think they have to consider delaying the payment of a utility bill or purchasing household items or even delaying buying groceries in order to help their student pay for college,” said Warick.
For low-income families where the student is the first in the family to go to college, the application process can seem very strange.
“Families may struggle to accept that they need to pay to be considered as an applicant and not even be admitted, which can feel like a waste of preciously scarce dollars,” said Warick. “Higher fees could also deter low-income students from applying to several institutions, making it hard for them to find the best match.”
How fee waiver programs work
College application fee waiver initiatives play a pivotal role in helping low-income students go to college. There are several programs out there, but many families aren’t aware they exist.
“Lowering all fees would help students think more broadly about where they go to college, but our first target would be to expand the availability and use of fee waivers for low-income students,” said Warick.
These programs completely cover your application fees, so you can search for schools without worrying about the cost of applying to each one. Although not all colleges accept waivers, there are thousands of schools that do.
Some programs require proof of your household’s income, so it’s a good idea to track down paystubs or tax returns ahead of time to streamline the process.
4 college application fee waiver programs
If you’re struggling to come up with the cash to apply to colleges, these programs might be able to help.
1. College Board fee waiver
Income-eligible students can qualify for a waiver for the SAT or SAT subject tests and apply to up to four schools for free.
College Board’s SAT and college application fee waiver program is available to low-income students in their junior or senior year of high school. You are eligible for the waivers if one of the following statements is true:
- You’re eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
- Your household income is within the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s Income Eligibility Guidelines.
- You’re enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families.
- Your family receives public assistance.
- You live in a foster home.
- You’re in a federally subsidized public housing program.
- You’re homeless.
- You’re a ward of the state or an orphan.
To get the College Board waiver, contact your high school counselor. You’ll need to show proof of eligibility, such as your family’s tax returns or proof of your enrollment in a government program.
2. Common App waiver
Over 700 schools allow students to use the Common Application to apply. By using the application, students can fill out just one application and submit it to all of the schools on their list.
The schools that use the Common Application try to ensure that fees won’t deter students from applying. If you’re in a precarious financial situation, the Common App fee waiver can help.
The Common App waiver has the same eligibility requirements as the College Board waiver.
3. NACAC application fee waiver
To help make college more accessible for all, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) offers a college application fee waiver, as well.
The NACAC waiver has the same eligibility requirements as the waivers from College Board and Common App. However, NACAC requires you to send the application directly to your school of choice.
4. Individual college programs
If you are ineligible for the above programs, or you have used your waiver for four schools already, don’t worry — that’s still not the end of the story. You might be able to qualify for a fee waiver directly from the colleges you choose.
Many schools have their own waiver programs, including institutions like Dartmouth and the University of Colorado-Boulder.
School-specific waiver programs can have more flexible eligibility requirements. For example, Dartmouth offers preapproved waivers to military veterans and students who participated in the Dartmouth Bound campus visitation programs.
If you need a waiver, contact the school’s financial aid office and explain your situation. You might be eligible for programs you didn’t know existed.
Affording to apply for college
Choosing a college can be overwhelming and stressful. The last thing you need is to add worrying about the cost of applications to the mix. If application fees are too expensive for you, check out fee waiver programs so you can focus on getting your application (and the dreaded admissions essay) perfect.
Already accepted to your favorite school? If you’re worrying about how you’re going to pay for four years of college (or more), check out this article on scholarships that cover tuition and more.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.24% – 13.24%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.07% – 11.32%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|6.08% – 7.22%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|