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How to Qualify for a College Application Fee Waiver

December 02, 2020 · 7 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 envelopes are addressed, there’s one more step: paying the college application fee.

If a student is applying to more than one school, those fees can really add up.

Luckily there is a way to get out of paying for the privilege of applying 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 looked at 953 ranked colleges and found that the average application fee was $44. It noted that 19 schools charged prices exceeding $75. Stanford University in California had the highest application fee, at $90.

If a student is applying to more than one school (or even just one, for that matter), this cost 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 $44 per college, on average, that could add up to $264 to $352. There are, however, ways to get around the fees.

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.

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.

Common Application

The Common Application is a generic application used by 600 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 is also available for international applicants. It’s important to note that it is still up to each school if it accepts a fee waiver request.

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 $47.50 for each standard SAT a student takes, and each ACT is $50.50. (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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Apply for School Online

Some colleges offer the option of applying for school entirely online, and a few waive their application fees for students who decide to go that route.

This is offered at schools like College of Southern Idaho, Wesleyan College, and Washington & Jefferson College.

Of course, students can still choose to apply via the old-fashioned route of mailing in their applications, but that could entail fees.

Students should check with their choice schools to find out if applying online will save them application fees.

Attend a College Fair or Visit the School

Some colleges and universities may be willing to hand out application fee waivers to students who take a tour or visit one of their booths during a college fair.

For example, the University of Pittsburgh offers an application fee waiver to those who attend an online event during a specific period throughout the year. 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 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, Louisiana Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and Alabama State University in Montgomery are just a few of the many schools that don’t require an application fee.

The College Board maintains a list of schools that do not require an application fee, consider making it free to apply for in-state students, or have special instructions for submitting an application fee waiver.

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, the FAFSA® in short, 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.

Aspiring collegians can discuss loan options directly with their schools of choice or consider a loan agreement with a friend or family member.

Students may also choose to look into private student loans. To qualify, students fill out a loan application alone or with a co-signer. The amount of money and interest rate usually depend on credit scores and income.

If a private student loan seems like a good fit, add SoFi private student loans to your college finances search.

Worried about fees? Don’t be. SoFi private student loans come with no origination fees, late fees, or insufficient-fund fees. And, hey, there’s no application fee.

SoFi private student loans aren’t just for undergrads either. There are options for graduate students, law and MBA students, and parent loans.

Learn more about private student loans with SoFi today.

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Bank, N.A. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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