How to Get a College Application Fee Waiver

Explore how to qualify for a college application fee waiver based on your financial need to reduce your overall costs.
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  • The average college application fee costs around $50.
  • Applying to multiple schools can get expensive.
  • There are several ways to get application fees completely waived.

The costs of applying to college can quickly add up, especially if you plan to apply to more than one school. The average application fee is $50 per school. Some are less, but some colleges and universities can charge even more. However, you can apply for a need-based college application fee waiver. Here's how the process works.

What Is a College Application Fee Waiver?

Many colleges and universities charge an application fee to consider a student for enrollment. The fee helps cover the administrative costs of processing each application and limits the pool of applicants to those who are serious about attending. In addition, other relevant expenses increase the costs of applying to college, including SAT fees, AP testing fees, and travel to tour prospective schools.

But for many people, college application fees are a major financial roadblock to seeking education. Learn how to get an application fee waiver for all the schools you're considering.

Who Qualifies for a College Application Fee Waiver?

Students must qualify for a college application fee waiver based on financial need. The requirements vary based on different types of waivers. Some schools use the same criteria as SAT or ACT waivers, while others use things like free lunch enrollment to determine eligibility.

Once you've narrowed down your list of schools you'd like to apply to, research how to qualify for an application fee waiver for each one since eligibility may differ.

6 Ways to Get College Application Fees Waived

Here are common strategies to get your application fee waived when applying to college.

1 Get an SAT or ACT Waiver

One of the most common eligibility guidelines colleges use to waive the application fee is if you got a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT exam. Students qualify based on:

  • Enrollment in a free or reduced-cost lunch program
  • Income eligibility for the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service
  • Receipt of public assistance or another low-income program from the local, state, or federal government
  • Homelessness
  • Status as an orphan or ward of the state

2 Apply for the Common App Fee Waiver

If you're using the Common App to apply to any of the roughly 950 participating colleges and universities, you can also request a fee waiver. You can automatically qualify if you've received an SAT waiver or meet any of the same standards as above.

You can also qualify by having a school official or community leader vouch for your financial need.

3 Apply for the NACAC Application Fee Waiver

The National College Fairs also provides certain students with application fee waivers. The process is a little bit different in that you fill out an "Economic Need" section and explain your situation. You'll also need confirmation from a school official or community-based organization.

4 Apply for the Coalition App Fee Waiver

Many members of the Coalition for College offer application fee waivers. There's no documentation required — just indicate in your profile that you meet at least one of the following qualifications:

  • Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program participation
  • College Board, ACT, and/or NACAC fee waiver
  • Pell Grant eligibility
  • TRIO program participation
  • Veteran or active service member

5 Ask the College for a Fee Waiver

Some colleges and universities offer direct fee waivers through their admissions office. You can call directly to get details on the process since it may vary from school to school.

6 Apply to Colleges Without Application Fees

There are more than 100 U.S. colleges that don't charge application fees at all. Check out the list and see if any of your top choices are on there, or get inspired to apply to a college you may not have initially considered.

Frequently Asked Questions About College Application Fee Waivers

How do I get a fee waiver for college applications?

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There are many ways to qualify for a college application fee waiver, and many organizations use the same eligibility requirements. Common qualifications include receiving some type of public assistance, government aid, or free school lunch. You may need to submit supporting documentation depending on the organization or college.

Can you waive an application fee?

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Yes, you can waive an application fee. But you or your family must meet certain need-based qualifications to be eligible. Check different program requirements to understand what type of fee waivers you can apply for.

Can I email a college for a fee waiver?

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Yes, it is possible to directly contact a college admissions office to inquire about getting the application fee waived. Check online first, then call or email to find out any details not listed on the website. They may use similar standards as the SAT, ACT, or Common App waiver process.

What makes me eligible for a fee waiver?

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It depends on what organization is issuing the fee waiver. Typically, eligibility requirements include participation in a free lunch program or some other type of income-based assistance program.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.