How to Get a College Application Fee Waiver

 February 27, 2020
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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.

What is a fee waiver?
How to get fee waivers for your college applications: 4 best programs
Don’t let application fees stop you from applying

What is a fee waiver?

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.

How to get fee waivers for your college applications: 4 best 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
2. Common App waiver
3. NACAC application fee waiver
4. Individual college programs

1. College Board fee waiver

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.

2. Common App waiver

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.

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.

NACAC recommends using its fee waiver to apply to up to 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 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.

Don’t let application fees stop you from applying

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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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community 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. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
     
  2. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay 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.
     
  3. 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.

Information advertised valid as of 9/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.47% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.95% APR to 12.04% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.


3 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

4 Important Disclosures for Edly.

Edly Disclosures

1. Loan Example:

  • Loans from $5,000 – $20,000
  • Example: $10,000 IBR Loan with a 7% gross income payment percentage for a Senior student making $65,000 annually throughout the life of the loan.
    • Payments deferred for the first 12 months during final year of education.
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About this example

The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.

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Citizens Bank Disclosures

  • Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of September 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 2.23%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
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6 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.