As if college tuition in the U.S. wasn't expensive enough, in many cases, students also need to pay for their college application fees as well. For each school that you want to apply to, you may need to pay a fee. You may also need to pay extra money to send your SAT/ACT scores to each school you apply to. That being said, there are plenty of schools that do not require a fee to submit an application. And, for those that do, students who are unable to afford college applications fees should not worry, as there are ways to get around these fees.

How Much Do College Application Fees Cost?

On average, it costs $40 to apply for college. However, some schools can charge anywhere between $50 and $70, while Stanford charges a pretty penny to apply at $90. The more schools you apply to, the more you will likely be spending to apply. While paying these fees are inevitable for many applicants and their families, those who have greater need financially may be able to get an application fee waiver for some of the schools that they apply to.

How Does the Common App Work?

The Common Application is a tool that allows students to apply to many colleges in one application, making the application process much more efficient overall. According to Ivywise.com, you can apply to up to 20 colleges on one Common Application account.

The Common App works because there are over 800 colleges associated with the application. You can add the schools you already know you want to apply to, or do a search and perhaps consider applying to a school that you previously didn't know about.

Then, you will add each school you want to your application, and check the individual requirements for each of those schools. Most schools require the same materials, which you can easily gather and upload to the application. Once all the necessary information is added to your application, you can send out an application to each school added to your list.

What Is the Common App Fee?

The Common App fee is the fee or fees you will need to pay in order to apply for each school that requires an application fee. There is no fee simply to use the Common App. Instead, you will pay for each school's fee separately.

How to Pay the Common App Fee

When you go to submit your individual applications, you will be informed as to whether or not there is a fee and how much it is. Then, you will be taken to a page where you can pay the fee via a credit card or e-check. It is possible to submit an application without paying the fee first, however, your application will not be processed until you pay this fee. For more information, you can visit the Common App website.

Schools That Don't Charge Application Fees

According to the Common App website, there are over 250 member schools that do not charge an application fee. To find out which colleges are included in this list, you can search two ways on the Common App website. One way is to the College Search tab and filter Application Fee criteria. The other way is to go to the College Search tab and click on the Application Requirements box which will give you a full list of all the colleges that use the Common App and their corresponding fees.

You can also just do an internet search. For instance, PrepScholar has an updated list of schools that do not charge application fees in alphabetical order by state. Some of these are:

  • Alaska Pacific University
  • California College San Diego
  • Johnson and Wales University - Denver
  • Piedmont College
  • Monmouth College
  • University of Indianapolis
  • Northwestern College
  • Tulane University
  • University of Great Falls

Other Fees to Pay with Your Application

In addition to paying for college application fees, you may also need to pay fees to have supplemental materials sent to the colleges you're applying to. When you take the SAT and ACT, for example, you will be given four free score reports that will be sent directly to your prospective colleges.

If you end up applying to more than four schools, which many students do, then you will need to pay to have the scores sent to those additional schools. To do this, you can log onto your account at the College Board website and send all your scores or chosen scores to the schools you need, for $11.25 for each school.

The Common App Fee Waiver

The fees for applying to college are no doubt expensive. Thankfully, according to the Common App website, they say, "Our member colleges want to make sure that application fees do not pose a barrier for any student who wishes to apply for admission."

Therefore, if you and/or your family do not have the funds available to pay for these college application fees, you can apply for a waiver. With a waiver, it's recommended that you use it for no more than four schools. However, you're allowed to request a waiver for each school you apply to.

In order to apply for a Common App Fee waiver, you can do so on the Common App itself. First, you have to make sure you meet the qualifying requirements, according to the Common App website:

  •  You have received or are eligible to receive an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver
  • You are enrolled in or eligible to participate in the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program (FRPL)
  • Your annual family income falls within the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service
  • You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., TRIO programs such as Upward Bound)
  • Your family receives public assistance
  • You live in a federally subsidized public housing, a foster home or are homeless
  • You are a ward of the state or an orphan
  • You can provide a supporting statement from a school official, college access counselor, financial aid officer, or community leader  

If you already received a waiver for the SAT, you should automatically have your fees waived on the Common App. But, if you did not get a waiver for the SAT, or you took the ACT, then simply select the reason why you need a fee waiver. Your guidance counselor will need to sign off on this, so be sure that they know your circumstances before filling out this form.

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About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.