College application fees can add up quickly, with some schools charging as much as $90 simply to apply. If you can’t afford these fees, don’t worry — you might be able to get a college application fee waiver.
Application fee waivers allow you to apply to college for no-cost so that you can save your money for future school expenses. Here’s our list of what you need to know about what a college application fee waiver is and how to get fee waivers for your college applications.
College application fee waivers 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.
Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the National College Access Network, said that fee waivers can help remove the barrier to admission that many low-income students face.
“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,” Warick said.
Some college application fee waiver programs require proof of your household’s income, so it’s a good idea to track down pay stubs or tax returns ahead of time to streamline the process.
If you’re struggling to come up with the cash to apply to colleges, these programs might be able to help.
Income-eligible students can qualify for a waiver for the SAT or SAT subject tests and apply to as many colleges as they want at no-cost.
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 you meet one of these college fee waiver requirements:
- 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.
As for how to get fees waived for your college applications through College Board, 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.
Nearly 900 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. You can apply for it within the Common App, and your school counselor will be asked to confirm your information.
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.
NACAC recommends using its fee waiver to apply to up to four schools.
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 pre-approved 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.
Choosing a college can be overwhelming and stressful. The last thing you need is to worry about the cost of applications.
If application fees are too expensive for you, check out college 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.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this report.
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