How to Qualify for a College Application Fee Waiver

By Stacey Leasca · August 04, 2023 · 6 minute read

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How to Qualify for a College Application Fee Waiver

When applying for college, there are a lot of details to consider. Once the SAT scores are in, the essay is written, and the application is complete, there’s one more step: paying the college application fee.

If you are applying to more than one school, those fees can really add up.

Luckily there is a way to get out of paying to apply to a school: a college application fee waiver.

Here’s more intel for students and their parents about application fees and waivers.

The 411 on Application Fees

Many colleges and grad schools require applicants to pay a fee.

U.S. News & World Report looked at 889 ranked colleges and found that the average application fee was $45. It noted that 64 schools charged prices exceeding $75. Arkansas Baptist College had the highest application fee, at $100.

If a student is applying to more than one school, these costs can not only add up but also be prohibitive for some.

While there is no set standard for how many schools a student should apply to, some experts say it’s a good idea to apply to between six and eight colleges — two to three to act as safety schools, two as target schools, and two “reach” schools.

At $45 per college, on average, that could add up to $270 to $360. There are, however, ways to get around the fees.

💡 Quick Tip: SoFi offers low fixed- or variable-interest rates. So you can get a private student loan that fits your budget.

Ask the College for a Waiver

Many colleges and universities allow students to directly ask for an application fee waiver.

Typically, the application will have a field that students or parents can fill out asking for the application fee to be waived.

If there is no space on the application, students or parents could simply call the school’s registrar office and ask what options may be available to them.

Recommended: Important College Application Deadlines

Getting Help From Nonprofits

National Association for College Admission Counseling

The National Association for College Admission Counseling offers a request for an application fee waiver that can be filled out online and submitted with each application.

To fill out the form, the student simply writes the name of the college on the top line, and then fills out the “Student” section and checks the appropriate boxes in the “Economic Need” section. If none apply, an applicant can click “Other Request” and explain the financial need for the fee waiver.

Then, a school counselor, postsecondary support person, or principal at the student’s school, or a person from a community-based organization needs to complete the Authorized Official section to verify economic eligibility.

Students send the completed form directly to the university’s admissions office. College applicants may want to check with the office if they do not hear back about an approval status within a month.

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Common Application

The Common Application is a generic application used by 1,000 schools.

Using the application makes it easy for students to apply for more schools at once. And, within the application, students can request a fee waiver in the profile section. According to the Common Application, students can qualify for a fee waiver for a variety of reasons.

Those include if they are enrolled in 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, and if they are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families.

Students can also qualify if their family receives public assistance or if they live in federally subsidized public housing or a foster home, or are homeless. Students who are wards of the state or can provide a supporting statement on economic need from a school official can also apply for a waiver.

The Common Application fee waiver may also be available for international applicants. It’s important to note that it is still up to each school if it accepts a fee waiver request.

Recommended: Paying for College Without Parents Help

College Board

Students aiming for college will likely have to take a standardized test, presumably either the ACT or the SAT, as part of their application. The SAT costs $60 for each standard SAT a student takes, and each ACT is $68 (There is an additional cost if a student wants to take the essay portion of the tests.)

Eligible students can get fee waivers for up to two of each standardized test. Typically, they qualify if they live in a foster home or public housing or receive free or reduced-price lunches. Family income can also be a qualifier. Students will have to speak to a school administrator to receive the waiver, as each testing company allocates a specific number of waivers to each school.

So, how can this help with the college application fee? By qualifying for the SAT or ACT waiver, a student also gets to waive the application costs for four colleges. Those who are eligible for an SAT waiver will receive application waivers via the College Board, making it easy to streamline the process.

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Attend a College Fair or Visit the School

Some colleges and universities may be willing to hand out application fee waivers to students who visit the school.

For example, the University of Pittsburgh offers an application fee waiver to those who travel to and tour the school during a specific time period.There is no need to show financial need for the waiver.

Most schools do not actively advertise these specials, so students are encouraged to dig deeply into their choice school’s website or call the school’s office of admissions to find out if this may be an option.

How to Find Colleges With No Application Fees

There are a number of colleges out there that don’t require an application fee at all.

Tulane University in New Orleans, Loyola University Chicago, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas are just a few of the many schools that don’t require an application fee.

In some cases, a school will waive their application fees during certain time frames, such as the middle of October. You can do an online search for “colleges with no application fees” to find lists, but will want to follow up with any schools you’re interested in to make sure the information is up to date.

💡 Quick Tip: Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.

Paying for College

Getting past the application is just the beginning. From there, students will have to navigate the cost of housing, tuition, books, and more. For many, that means taking out loans.

Students can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA to see if they are eligible for student aid from the federal government. Colleges may then use the information provided to determine specific aid needs.

You can discuss federal aid and loan options directly with the schools of choice. If you still have gaps in funding, you may be able to cover them with a private student loan. These are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Keep in mind, though, that private loans don’t offer the same protections, such as government forgiveness or forbearance programs that come with federal student loans.

To qualify for a private student loan, you need to fill out a loan application alone or with a cosigner. The amount of money you can borrow and the interest rate usually depend on credit scores and income.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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