With your essays written and application filled out, you cannot wait to finally check off “Apply to college” on your to-do list. Who would have expected applications fees to be so expensive? And for some, having to pay fees might even be a roadblock to submitting an application. College application fees can range from zero to almost a hundred dollars (cough, cough Stanford). In the age where most people apply to more than just a handful schools, the amount you have to pay adds up.
The good news is, if application fees pose a huge challenge for your family, colleges and various scholarship programs offer fee waivers. There might not be free lunch anywhere but there are certainly ways to pay less for college applications.
The Common App and Other College Applications
Many colleges offer different applicants fee waivers. The most common phenomenon involving fee waivers occurs when the student comes from a low-income background. Common App makes applying for a fee waiver extremely easy. One of the questions on the application asks you to indicate whether paying the fee poses a financial difficulty for your family. The next question has a drop down menu of reasons why it is. Two clicks and you are done!
However, sometimes you are unsure whether you would qualify. Talking to your school’s guidance or college counselor about your family’s financial situation could point you in the right direction. It also alerts your counselor to look out for potential scholarships for you in the future. Finally, sometimes it is necessary to ask your counselor for a letter proving financial hardships.
College readiness programs like QuestBridge or Upward Bound will offer its students fee waivers to apply to colleges too. A neat site to check out for information on waivers is the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. NACAC details straightforward requirements.
College Board has also been dropping acts of goodness out of the sky by mailing high performing students from low-income neighborhoods/families packets containing application fee waivers to be used on any college applications. Although no one is quite sure how College Board determines eligibility, it is good to keep an eye out for it if you think you might qualify.
Alternatively, schools have also been known to waive fees for certain high achieving students. Rice University, for example, waived its application fees one year for students who consistently scored well on the AP tests.
Financial Aid Applications
Ironic to many, the CSS Profile that students have to fill out to receive financial aid actually requires an application fee. Granted, the fee is not as high as college application fees, but on top of everything else, the CSS Profile fees can be overwhelming.
Thankfully, as you complete sections of the CSS Profile, the website automatically enters your information into an algorithm that determines whether or not you qualify for their waiver program. If you do, instead of seeing a payment page at the end, you can simply submit the application without paying.
Scholarship, Testing & Miscellaneous Applications
Finally, applying to certain programs also brings with it additional fees. Taking standardized tests also requires registration fees. For example, if you want to study abroad, programs will have significant application fees and deposit requirements. Why all the fees you ask? Why are they everywhere? Chances are the program needs to employ application reviewers and maintain operations with its revenue source. In addition, the fee might exist to deter people who are not serious about applying. Don’t be deterred! First thing you should do is to look through the program’s website to see if the program offers fee waivers (the best place to look is often under how to apply or financial aid).