Once you have selected your top college choices, filled out the applications and written the essays, the next task is coming up with the cash for the application fees. College application fees range from $20 to $90, but do not let this keep you from casting a wide net. If you need help with college fees, there are options available. Some colleges are receptive to a straightforward request. If your family income meets certain criteria, many colleges may waive the fees. There are other unique programs designed to assist with waiving college application fees.
Why Does it Cost Money to Apply to College?
Colleges use application fees to subsidize the cost of the decision making process. Each application is individually evaluated and this requires intense staff time. Applicants pay a fee to cover this cost. Since the review process is cumbersome, colleges want to ensure that each applicant is a serious about attending the institution. A fee is one more assurance that the application deserves serious consideration.
How to Get the College Application Fee Waiver
If you qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), receive public assistance, live in subsidized public housing, are in foster care, a ward of the state, are enrolled in a Federal program like Upward Bound or are homeless, you can take the SAT for free. Registering for the SAT with any one of these conditions will give you an application fee waiver for four participating colleges.
There are more than 2,000 colleges that are part of this program. If you are using the Common Application, and you qualify for a fee waiver, be sure to check the box marked fee waiver. The National Association for College Admission Counseling offers a scholarship program that acts as a fee waiver program, based on demonstrated need. The eligibility requirements mirror the SAT program.
How to Get College Admission Fees Waived
Be on the lookout for special programs that encourage access and opportunity for students interested in college. The American Council on Education sponsors an American College Application Campaign to encourage students to learn more about the college application process. Many states offer incentives like a fee waiver during this campaign.
For example, Minnesota state schools offer a free college application week every October. North Carolina has a similar free application week every November. These programs are not based upon financial need, and all students are eligible. If you plan in advance and do a little research, you can find fee waivers.
Never underestimate the power of a well-written request letter. College admission offices are eager to have a large pool of prospective students to consider. Share your story in a way that is as compelling as possible. If you have experienced a financial hardship, or are independent from your family, include this information. You should also mention that the application fee would prohibit you from applying and that you are very interested in pursuing admission to the college. If possible, ask your school counselor to write a letter of support that indicates your need for an application fee waiver. If you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and your Expected Family Contribution is zero, you can add this information to your letter, to bolster your request for a waived application fee.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years. She has numerous publications with Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.