How to Apply to College for Free!


Many students and parents forget to factor in application costs when planning for college. With the average college application fee ranging between $25 and $50, students can easily expect to spend over $250 before they even get accepted to a school. Those who plan to apply to Ivy League colleges or other prestigious schools, such as Stanford University ($90) or Harvard College ($75), may spend even more. For some families, these fees can create a financial barrier, leaving them with the tough decision of removing potential colleges from their list. Thankfully, there are some ways that students can reduce or even eliminate the application fees when applying to colleges this fall.

1. Search for Colleges with No Application Fee

It may be hard to believe, but some colleges do not require an application fee to apply for admission. Many are smaller campuses or have a religious affiliation, such as Lakeland College and Grace Bible College, but students can increase their chances of being accepted by submitting to several of these ‘no fee’ schools.

Campus Visit2. Participate in a Campus Visit

It’s always a good idea for students to take the time to visit colleges on their short list, as this is often the best way to determine if a college is the right fit. Another added benefit is that the college may actually waive the application fee for those who have participated in a campus visit. Albright College and Alfred College are among the colleges that provide waivers to those who have taken a tour within the past year. Those who are interested in receiving a waiver should check with the school’s admissions office to verify availability.

3. Apply Online

Many colleges are moving away from paper applications and encouraging students to apply online. As an incentive, some colleges, such as Drake University and Barry University, have opted to waive the application fee for those who are willing to use the paperless system. Students should review every school’s guidelines to determine if they may be eligible for an online application waiver.

4. Provide Proof of Financial Hardship

Many colleges will reduce or waive the application fee for students who can provide proof of financial hardship. Students who have received an ACT or SAT fee waiver may be eligible for up to four college application fee waivers. Those who are enrolled in a program that aids students from low-income families, or meet other requirements set forth by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), may also be eligible for a waiver.

Alumni Waiver5. Use an Alumni Waiver

Students who are planning to apply to a college where their parents or other relatives may have attended should contact the school’s alumni or admissions office to inquire about potential fee waivers. Some schools, such as Thomas College, even allow alumni to grant a fee waiver to anyone, including friends. Students may also have their application fees waived if they have a parent in the Armed Forces, are a foster child, or are related to someone who is working at the college. Although some colleges are very good about advertising fee waivers and other opportunities to reduce costs, not all are easy to find online. Students should do their research and, if necessary, contact the admissions office directly to inquire about reduced fees before sending in their applications. A little research upfront can save students some serious cash in the end.

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