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How to apply for a college application fee waiver

Save hundreds of dollars on the cost of applying to school.

Updated

College application fees can run from $0 to $90 per application, with most clocking in around $45. Apply to the recommended 10 schools and that can easily add up to hundreds of dollars. Can’t afford it? Almost all schools allow some students to waive the fee based on financial need.

How can I get my application fee waived?

There are a few ways you can get your application fee waived:

  • Request a waiver on the application. Most applications include a box you can check to request a fee waiver. This is the simplest way, though not every school offers this option.
  • Fill out a NACAC application waiver form. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) also has a fee waiver application form you can complete and submit with your application.
  • Register for an SAT fee waiver. Students who receive a waiver from the College Board for SAT fees automatically receive a college application fee waiver for the Coalition and Common Apps.

How to request a fee waiver on the application

Most college applications have a box you can check to apply for a fee waiver — especially applications that are used by multiple colleges, such as the Coalition and Common Apps. Other applications like the Universal College Application might require you to check a box indicating that you’re applying for a fee waiver and ask that you submit the waiver separately.

How to request a fee waiver on the Coalition App

To request a fee waiver, you must answer the following questions in the Fee waiver section of the application:

  • Are you eligible for and/or enrolled in the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program?
  • Have you received a College Board fee waiver?
  • Have you received an ACT fee waiver?
  • Have you received the NACAC fee waiver from your high school counselor?
  • Are you eligible for the Pell Grant?
  • Have you participated in or are currently participating in any TRIO programs?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, you’re eligible for a Coalition App fee waiver at some colleges — a list will appear at the bottom of the screen. Depending on the schools you select, you might be required to answer more questions.

How to request a fee waiver on the Common App

You can request a fee waiver once you get to the Profile section of the Common App. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Common App website and log in to your account. Don’t have one? Create an account by providing basic information about yourself.
  2. After logging in, you’ll be taken to your dashboard. Select Common App in the main menu at the top of the page.
  3. Scroll down and click Common App Fee Waiver.
  4. Check Yes if you think you’re eligible for a fee waiver.
  5. Select the criteria that qualifies you for a fee waiver.
  6. Sign the fee waiver. This certifies that you understand the eligibility requirements and are aware that a high school counselor will be asked to verify your fee waiver application.
Criteria to qualify for a Common App fee waiver
  • Eligible to receive an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver
  • Enrolled or eligible to participate in the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch Program
  • Annual family income falls within the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service
  • Enrolled in a federal, state or local program that aids students from low-income families
  • Receive public assistance
  • Live in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home or are homeless
  • Ward of the state or an orphan
  • Can provide a supporting statement from another authorized individual

How to fill out the NACAC application fee waiver form

The NACAC application fee waiver form is available for download online through the NACAC website. You also might be able to find it through your high school guidance counselor or even at a college fair.

Step 1: Fill out your personal information.

Once you get the form, fill out the name of the school, your name and your address.

Top part por fee waiver application form

Step 2: Select the criteria you qualify for.

Skip the next section labeled Authorized Official — that’s for an authorized official like your guidance counselor to complete.

Under the section labeled Economic Need, check the boxes that apply to you and your family’s financial situation:

  • Receive or eligible to receive an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver
  • Enrolled in or eligible to participate in the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch Program
  • Annual income falls within the income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service
  • Enrolled in a federal, state or local program that aids students from low-income families
  • Receive public assistance
  • Live in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home or are homeless
  • Ward of the state or an orphan

If you and your family experience another type of financial difficulty, have your guidance counselor check the last box and explain the situation.

Bottom part of fee waiver application form

Step 3: Bring it to a school official.

You need a school official to complete the section labeled Authorized Official. An authorized official can be one of the following individuals:

  • School counselor, such as a guidance counselor or college adviser
  • TRIO representative
  • Independent counselor

While it’s not required for the authorized official to be a member of NACAC, it’s preferred.

Step 4: Mail it in.

Send a copy of your NACAC application to the admissions office of each school you’re applying to. You can send it along with your application or separately.

How to register for an SAT fee waiver

Registering for the SAT fee waiver kills two birds with one stone: It gets you out of having to pay any SAT-related fees while also automatically making you eligible for a College Board college application fee waiver. You can get an SAT fee waiver through your high school guidance counselor. You need to provide proof of eligibility, such as tax records or proof of receiving public assistance.

You must meet at least one of the following criteria to qualify for an SAT fee waiver:

  • Enrolled in or eligible for the National School Lunch Program
  • Family income falls into the guidelines for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service
  • Enrolled in a federal state or local program that aids students from low-income families
  • Family receives public assistance
  • Live in federally subsidized housing, a foster home or are homeless
  • Ward of the state or an orphan

How else can I avoid application fees?

Applying for a fee waiver is only one way to avoid the application fee. If you can’t qualify for a fee waiver, you might want to consider one of the following options:

  • Contact the school. Some schools might be willing to waive the fee in special circumstances, even if you don’t qualify for a waiver.
  • Apply to a school with no fees. Several schools don’t charge an application fee at all, including Wellesley.
  • Apply online. Some schools also don’t charge an application fee if you submit an online application, which is easier to process.
  • Go to college fairs. Colleges sometimes invite students who signed up for their mailing list to apply without a fee. While this isn’t guaranteed to get you a waiver, you can sometimes avoid the fee without doing much on your part other than checking the mail.

4 more ways to cut down on the cost of applying to college

If you aren’t careful, applying to college can cost you over $4,500. Here’s how you can avoid that hefty price tag:

  • Skip the private tutor. Private tutors can cost over $100 an hour, which adds up quickly.
  • Apply for SAT and ACT fee waivers. You can get fees waived for taking the SAT and ACT — which often makes you eligible for an application fee waiver as well.
  • Get your application in well before the deadline. This gives you time to correct any mistakes and make sure everything is in on time — allowing you to skip rush and late fees.
  • Apply to in-state schools. Some schools will only waive fees for in-state students. Plus, sticking to colleges in your home state can also help you save on tuition and fees.

How much does it actually cost to apply to college?

Bottom line

College application fees can be expensive, but your family might not have to pay them if you can’t afford to. Talk to your guidance counselor to find out which waivers you should apply for — if any. And learn more about how to pay for school by checking out our guide to student loans.

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