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How to Get a College Application Fee Waiver
College applications looking pricey? Luckily for you, if you meet just a few general eligibility criteria and demonstrate financial need, you may qualify for a college application fee waiver at the colleges you apply to! Keep on reading to find out what college application fee waivers are, how you can get them, and how to use them!
What is a college application fee waiver?
Great question! Simply, college application fee waivers allow you to apply to colleges without having to pay the usual fee. These are very beneficial as applying to colleges can be expensive and serve as a barrier to applying for some students. Before we get into common eligibility requirements for college application fee waivers, let’s go over the cost of college applications.
How much do college applications cost?
College applications vary in price by school, but the average college application fee is around $44. However, on the lower-end, colleges tend to be in the $20 – $30 range, and some are even free. Check out this helpful list of colleges without an application fee, organized by state!. On the other hand, the most expensive college applications fees are typically just above $100.
Thus, applying to many (or even a few) colleges can be quite costly. Applying to just five schools (the recommended minimum!) would cost an average of $220. However, this could be even higher (or lower) depending on the specific schools a student applies to.
This is where college application fee waivers come in. If you sense that applying to colleges will be a burden for you or your family, consider college application fee waivers. So, let’s get into it!
Do I qualify for a college application fee waiver?
Good question! First, knowing whether you qualify for fee waivers is of utmost importance. So, don’t waste any time applying in case you don’t meet the eligibility requirements.
So, what are the criteria to qualify? Well, they’re actually the same as those needed to get a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT. In fact, if you’ve already gotten a fee waiver for one of those exams, you’re automatically eligible for college application fee waivers! However, for those who haven’t received a fee waiver for one of those exams yet, let’s review the criteria.
If any of the following are true for you, you qualify for a college application fee waiver:
- You’re eligible or enrolled in a Federal Free/Reduced Price Lunch Program
- Your family meets the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Income Eligibility Guidelines, which are as follows (for most states):
|Members in Household||Total Annual Income|
- You’re enrolled in a program which helps students from low-income families (e.g. Upward Bound)
- Your family gets public assistance
- You live in federally subsidized public housing, live in a foster home, or are homeless
- You’re an orphan or a ward of the state
Once again, you only need to meet a single one of those criteria, and you qualify! International students are also eligible for these fee waivers, typically so long as they meet at least one of the criteria.
Now, let’s go over how you go about getting your fee waivers. Even for those of you who’ve already qualified for fee waivers when taking the SAT or ACT still have to go through the process of obtaining the college application fee waivers, so, let’s get into how you would do that.
How can I get college application fee waivers?
There’s a number of ways you can get college application fee waivers, as universities are unique and have different fee waiver processes. However, some of the easiest ways to get college application fee waivers are:
- If you’re applying to schools on the Common Application
- Whether you’re applying to schools on the Coalition Application
- If you took the SAT with a fee waiver
Keep in mind, if none of these apply to you, don’t worry! These are not the only ways to obtain college application fee waivers, as you can also request alternate fee waiver forms. Or, if you have trouble getting access to these forms online, you can also directly contact your prospective schools by email and ask for one.
Now, let’s get into the specifics! Keep on reading to find out how to get fee waivers on the common app, coalition app, and other common ways of requesting fee waiver forms.
While filling out college applications
On both the Common and Coalition Applications, there are questions which will ask you to select which college application requirements (yes, the ones we went over earlier!) apply to you. The processes are slightly different for each application, though, so we’ll go over the steps now.
Common Application: Steps to obtain a fee waiver
- In your “Profile” section, indicate whether or not you qualify for a fee waiver (click “Yes” or “No”)
- If you click “Yes”, you will be prompted to answer why you qualify (this is where you select which eligibility requirement(s) applies to you!) and will be asked to enter your signature
And that’s it (just don’t forget to hit “continue” or “submit”)! Keep in mind, though, that your counselor may also have to confirm your answer. If you have already received a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT, your counselor should be able to sign automatically. However, if this is not the case, you may need to provide additional proof to your counselor that you qualify for a fee waiver.
After your counselor approves, you should be all good to go! In the very rare case that your school wants additional proof or denies your request, they will contact you directly.
International students: all the above steps should be the same for you as well!
Coalition Application: Steps to obtain a fee waiver
- When making your Coalition Application account, you will be prompted to select which of the fee waiver eligibility requirements apply to you once you reach the “Profile” section
- Once you select which requirements apply to you, you will be shown a list of Coalition Application schools that will waive their application fees according to the answer(s) you selected
Then, you’re done! Your counselor will receive a request for your fee waiver, and if they approve, it will be sent to the colleges you’re applying to through the Coalition Application.
Once this is done, whenever you apply to a college on the Coalition Application, you will be able to skip the payment screen.
If you took the SAT with a fee waiver
If you’ve already taken the SAT with a fee waiver, you’re in luck! Doing so makes you automatically eligible to receive unlimited college application fee waivers from College Board, so long as the schools you’re applying to allow the use of fee waivers. These fee waivers are available in your College Board account, where they can be viewed and printed (if you need to send them out to colleges).
If you took the SAT with a fee waiver yet are unable to find the fee waivers in your College Board account yet, it may be because you’re in the wrong grade. These fee waivers only become available in your senior year. So, if you’re currently a junior, just wait until the Fall of your senior year, and you should be good to go!
Didn’t take the SAT? Don’t worry – There are alternate fee waiver forms available!
Getting alternative fee waiver forms
In the case that you’re not applying to colleges through the Common or Coalition Application and haven’t taken the SAT, there are other ways of getting fee waiver forms.
If you’re in this situation, we recommend you first head to your counselor’s office. They likely have the forms themselves or can print them for you, and you’ll end up needing their signature anyway.
The two forms they’re most likely to hand to you are the ACT, Inc. and NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) fee waiver form.
ACT, Inc. Fee Waiver
ACT, Inc., unlike College Board, does not automatically give application fee waivers to its students who received a test fee waiver.
Although somewhat buried on the site, page 85 of this ACT User Handbook for Educators provides a fee waiver form for students who qualified for an ACT fee waiver. It asks you to fill out some information about yourself, including your name, address, high school, as well as your own and your counselor’s (or school official’s) signature. You will also need to note which university you’re applying to.
Note: Qualifying for a fee waiver on the ACT does not mean that this is the only fee waiver form you can use! Feel free to use whichever your counselor has on hand or whichever your prospective college(s) will allow.
NACAC Fee Waiver Form
Like the Common Application page and the ACT fee waiver request form, the NACAC fee waiver form also requests some basic information and asks you to specify which indicator(s) of economic need applies to you. After filling this in, you will need your counselor or a school official to sign off on these forms (in non-COVID times).
The NACAC form can be used by any applicant, no matter what standardized test they took. However, NACAC recommends that students only use their form for a maximum of four colleges. It is unclear whether or not international students can use this form.
If you need help filling out the NACAC fee waiver form or run into any issues, NACAC provides its own helpful list of steps to fill out the form and even has its own FAQ for any questions you may have while filling it out.
Individual college fee waivers
If, by chance, your prospective college(s) do not allow any of the fee waivers we’ve listed out so far, there are other ways you can go about getting your application fees waived.
If this happens to you, you should first contact the colleges directly (through email, calling, etc.) and ask (1) if they accept application fee waivers and (2) what type or form of fee waiver they would prefer.
Although uncommon, some universities allow applicants to write a letter of request for a fee waiver instead of filling out a form. In your letter, you should include: why you want to attend that university, your future goals, your financial situation (the hardships that would qualify you for a fee waiver), your family’s annual income, how many people live in your household, and contact information for both yourself and your counselor. Here’s an example of a fee waiver letter of request.
How can I use my college application fee waivers?
Now, for the most important part – putting your fee waivers to use! The processes differ depending on what platform you’re using, so we’ll go over each individually.
However, first, it is important to note that fee waivers are fee waiver requests – and that it is up to each school to approve of your request. Luckily, colleges will typically approve of these so long as you have the signature of a counselor or another designated official.
Colleges may sometimes ask you for more information or proof that you qualify, but this is uncommon. The fee waiver process is largely based on an honor system, in which schools will take your word for it if you and your counselor deem that you’re eligible for a fee waiver.
Common Application fee waivers
The process is SUPER simple on the Common App! All that you need to do is go to your “Profile” page and indicate that you’ll be using a fee waiver. Then, you simply need to give your reason why, submit, and your counselor will be reminded to approve of your request.
Yes, this is the same process we mentioned earlier (under “How Can I get College Application Fee Waivers”), so you may have already done it at this point.
If your counselor approves, you’re good to go (for both domestic and international students)!
Similarly, if you’re already eligible for fee waivers as you qualified for an SAT fee waiver, you shouldn’t have to do anything else (your counselor has probably already checked your eligibility for that waiver).
All schools on the Common App should accept fee waiver requests, and typically don’t request any additional information after your counselor has approved. If they do, however, want more information, they will contact you directly (this is more common for international students).
Now, on to the Coalition App!
Coalition Application fee waivers
Just like the Common Application, these steps are the same as the ones we went over earlier (under “How Can I get College Application Fee Waivers?”)! If you need a refresher, simply set up your MyCoalition account, head to your “Profile” section, and check the boxes of the eligibility requirements that apply to you.
You likely won’t have to submit additional proof of your eligibility, unless your counselor happens to request something. If you’ve already qualified for a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT, you also shouldn’t need to send in any additional forms.
Most colleges on the Coalition Application accept fee waiver forms, so you should be set once your counselor approves of your request.
College Board fee waivers
College Board fee waivers are unlike any of those previously mentioned, and give students a personalized code. If you’re applying to any schools that aren’t on the Common or Coalition Application, you will likely be asked to either (1) enter this code or (2) upload a scanned copy of your fee waiver form on your application.
When your college(s) require you to apply by mail or ask for a hard copy, send the signed fee waiver form with your application.
Have questions about the College Board fee waiver or are unsure if your college(s) accept them? Check out these helpful tools from the College Board itself:
- College Application Fee Waiver FAQ
- Search for Colleges that Accept (any) Application Fee Waivers – this also tells you which colleges you can apply to for free and if a college has any special instructions for accepting fee waivers!
- Directory of Colleges that accept the College Board fee waiver
Other fee waivers
If using a NACAC, Act, Inc., or any other alternate fee waiver form, you will likely be instructed to upload a signed copy of the form to your application (if your school(s) don’t request a hard copy).
If you have any questions about the fee waiver process at a particular school, we recommend giving them a call. Alternatively, if they have any more questions for you, they will likely contact you.
We should also note that some schools, though not many, only accept fee waivers from certain students. For example, many of the universities in the California State system only allow fee waivers for in-state students.
That just about covers it! Now, you should know everything you need to know about getting college application fee waivers. We wish you luck on your college application process, and more specifically, your college application fee waiver process. Have fun at college!