Are there ways to waive college application fees?

Finances and Aid

Our Counselors Answered:

Are there ways to waive college application fees?
Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

Yes! Several ways come to mind…… 1. If you receive a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT you will most likely qualify for an application fee waiver from the college to which you will apply. For some it is automatic, others you must ask and still others don’t offer the waiver so best to consult each school’s policy on this. 2. If you have a particular hardship in your family such as recent unemployment by a parent, reach out to the schools admissions office and ask about the waiver in light of this event. 3. Visit your top schools in the summer before your senior year. Many schools reward early interest like this by offering to waive the application fee because you put your two little feet on their campus. Some require you to start the application while there and others give a coupon to walk away with an use later. Either way, with application fees nearing $100 it is a good incentive to visit in the summer and reduce your overall college search costs just because you are an early planner! 4. Signing up online for mailing and information from a school can also result in an application fee waiver. If you don’t see one online, call the schools, speak with an admissions counselor and ask if there are ways that you might qualify for a waiver. The worse they can say is….”there isn’t any.” But if they do have one you will have just saved yourself a few precious coins that can go to buying you some nice new things for your dorm room next year!

Daniel KramerCollege AdvisorThe Wight Foundation

Normally, application fee waivers may be granted if a student can demonstrate that the application fee would pose a financial hardship on them or their parents/guardians but the process for obtaining them depends on the college or university. At many, if you qualify for a fee waiver for the SAT or free lunch program at your high school, you will be eligible for an application fee waiver. Some schools allow a college counselors to submit the NACAC application fee waiver form on your behalf and some schools also require a letter from your college counselor explaining why the fee would cause a financial hardship. Some schools have their own forms students must complete and make the determination to grant a fee waiver based on that information. Some schools will waive application fees to those who have had parents or siblings attend the school. Some schools will give fee waivers to students who take part in special information sessions or school events. In short, many colleges and universities will waive application fees to those who need the financial help the most, but they all have their own processes for granting those waivers. Best to check with each school you plan to apply to individually to find out their process.

Lauren CarterDirector of College CounselingLouisville Collegiate School

There are several ways to waive application fees. First and foremost, see if you qualify for College Board, ACT, or NACAC application fee waivers. The best place to go to find this out is your school counselor. Your counselor will also have a supply of waivers and can distribute as they see fit. This could potentially waive an application and SAT/ACT test fees. If you do not “qualify” for a formal fee waiver but have extenuating circumstances where paying the application fee would cause you and your family financial hardship, ask your counselor to write a letter to the colleges requesting a fee waiver. Lastly, you can feel free to ask the admissions officers directly for a fee waiver. This could be done via email, a phone call, or a conversation (if you see them at a college fair, etc.) Some colleges automatically waive their application fees if you submit an application through their website or submit your application by a certain date.

Lynda McGeeCollege CounselorDowntown Magnets High School

Absolutely! First, it’s important you know that many schools will waive the fee for anyone if they apply by a certain date (usually before their deadline), or if you apply online rather than using a paper application. You would be surprised how many schools do this, even on the common application. If you are from a low income family, however, you can get almost every application fee waived. The National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), has a form on its website that you can download and ask your school counselor to sign for you. I have never seen a private school reject a NACAC fee waiver, although state schools may have their own forms and methods for waiving fees. And lastly, some schools will waive fees for middle income students as well, if requested for a good reason. It can’t hurt, so if you have a need to waive the fees, just ask.

Erica WhiteCollege & Career CounselorMiddletown High School

If you qualify for free or reduced lunch in your high school, you also qualify for 4 College Board application fee waivers. Be sure to check that your college accepts College Board fee waivers, most do, but a few schools in the South do not. You can obtain these fee waivers from your guidance counselor. You can also contact the admission office to explain why you are unable to pay for the application and they may waive the application fee for you. Some strong students receive priority applications from colleges, where the application fee has been waived automatically. Some schools also have free applications if you apply online or by a certain date. Never let money get in the way of applying to college, there are always ways to help waive your application fees.

Kristina DooleyIndependent Educational ConsultantEstrela Consulting

Absolutely! Some colleges will give you an application fee waiver for visiting their campus, while others will waive your fee for applying online. If you know an alum of a college that you are applying to, they may be able to secure a fee waiver for you from the Alumni Office. For those students who have received a fee waiver to take the SAT, you may also find some colleges will waive their application fee (a list of schools with this policy can be found on the College Board website). Finally, if the application fee presents a financial hardship to you, then it won’t hurt for you to simply contact the Office of Admission at the schools to which you are applying and ask if it’s possible to have your fee waived…it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Tennille RaneyFounderDevelop Your Dreams

One of the best ways to get college application fees waived, is to actively engage with admission personnel. – Attend a college fair and speak to an admissions rep about your intention to apply to their college. They will often have waived applications in hand. – Go for an open house or schedule a visit; often as a way to say “thank you,” the admissions staff will offer a fee-waived application. If all else fails, simply call and ask. I have called on behalf of my students and was able to get a fee waived just from a simple email request. Colleges want you to apply. Don’t allow an application fee to be a deterrent from applying to the school of your choice.

Tyler BurtonPresidentBurton College Tours

Everyone knows that tuition is expensive. Some students and families are unaware of the costs just to apply to college. If you are a student with a low family income speak with your school counselor about applying for SAT test fee waivers AND fee waivers for applications. The good news is that some schools waive the application fee if you apply online. Students who are granted application fee waivers should budget their waivers and not use them when they may submit online for free. Tip, Wellesley both guarantees to meet 100% of demonstrated need AND does not charge an application fee if a student submits their application online.

Nina BerlerFounderunCommon Apps

Yes, there are ways to waive college application fees. The College Board points this out to students on the website and even provides a link for students to check their choices of schools. Students who are having difficulty getting the money together with fees should not hesitate to see their guidance counselors, who may be willing to put in a call on their behalf. Also, many websites have information online for students in need. After all, part of most colleges’ missions is to offer opportunities to a diverse body of candidates, including those who are in the first generation to go to college.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.College and Career CounselorAir Academy High School

Many colleges will waive application fees and offer students a special (streamlined) application because they see or know something about this students that they are interested in. If your family has significant financial difficulties, you can talk to your college counselor about an application fee waiver (I use the one from NACAC). You can use the fee waiver for up to 4 or 5 colleges. Ethically, NACAC allows me to submit up to 4 for a student. For my school, significant financial difficulties involve being on the free or reduced lunch program or receiving other public welfare help.