How to Get Your College Application Fees Waived

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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.

You can use the NACAC waiver to apply to no more than four schools.

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.

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

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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.

(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount.  The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 9/3/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.


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3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
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  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest interest rate offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.50% as of July 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please visit discover.com/student-loans/interest-rates for more information about interest rates.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

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Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

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5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

Citizens Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of October 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.05%. Variable interest rates range from 3.15% – 11.41% (3.15% – 11.26% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school. 

Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.

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