How to Get a College Application Fee Waiver

College Application
College Application

Most college application fees fall in the $50 to $85 range, with some costing as much as $105 (ahem, University of California Irvine). For many students and their families, these fees present a serious obstacle along the already pricey path to college. If application fees are burdensome to you, you may qualify for college application fee waivers!.

Just like SAT and ACT fee waivers, these college fee waivers allow you to send off your applications for free. This guide will go over how you can qualify for and use college application fee waivers, step by step.

First, let’s review how much college applications usually cost and how much you can save with fee waivers.


How Much Do College Applications Cost?

College applications, on average, cost around $40. Especially selective schools, like NYU, Boston University, Harvard, Yale, and, of course, the pricey University of California Irvine, ask for $100 or more. If you apply to just five of these pricey private schools, then you’re already looking at application fees of over $380!

Several state schools are a little less expensive; Penn State, University of Wisconsin, and University of Texas, for instance, all ask for $50. Other schools are somewhat more reasonable with application fees of $25 or $30, plus there are a good number of schools to which you can apply for free!

But unless you’re applying to primarily fee-free schools, the costs of applying can seriously add up – especially if you’re looking at 8 or more colleges. Fee waivers can be a huge help, but they aren’t available to everyone. Fee waivers are given only to students and families who qualify. Read on to learn if you’re eligible.


How Do You Qualify for College Application Fee Waivers?

First off, it merits saying that your fee waivers are actually fed waiver requests. Ultimately, each of your colleges must approve your request. For the most part, colleges will approve if you have your school counselor’s or another designated official’s signature.

If your colleges have any doubts or questions, then they might ask you to send along extra information demonstrating that you qualify (this is rare). Mostly, this fee waiver process is done on the honor system. It’s up to you and your counselor to determine if you’re eligible, so take a look at the criteria below.

There are a few pieces of criteria that must apply for you to be eligible for fee waivers. They’re actually the same guidelines that apply to get an SAT or ACT fee waiver. If you already got an SAT or ACT fee waiver, therefore, then you should be automatically eligible for college application fee waivers.

If you’re using the Common Application or your admission test of choice was the SAT, then the process should be especially easy. Before delving into how to get the fee waivers, let’s go over the qualifying guidelines. Just one of these must apply to you.

  • You’re enrolled in or eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program.
  • Your family income meets the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service*.
  • You’re enrolled in a program that aids students from low-income families, like Upward Bound.
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home, or are homeless.
  • You’re a ward of the state or an orphan.
  • You can provide a supporting statement from an official of your financial eligibility.


Members in Household Total Annual Income

How Do You Get College Application Fee Waivers?

The easiest ways to get your hands on application fee waivers don’t involve archaeological adventures, unfortunately. They involve cases in which:

  • You’re applying to colleges with the Common Application, and/or
  • You took the SAT with a fee waiver.

If neither of these scenarios applies to you, then you may be able to obtain an alternative fee waiver form. For instance, students who took the ACT and are applying to a non-Common Application school may need to find these other forms.

Finally, if you have trouble obtaining any form at all, then you could simply fax or send your college a letter of request. Since there are a few different options, we’ll break it down with instructions for each scenario, starting with students who apply through the Common Application.