How Can I Avoid College Application Fees?

Some colleges will accept a letter from a student's guidance counselor to have the college application fee waived.
Many colleges and universities will waive application fees provided students meet certain requirements.
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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2014
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College application fees can be a financial burden on some students, especially if they plan to apply to several schools. There are options available for averting these costs, but the terms can vary depending on the institution. Some common ways that an applicant might avoid fees include proving economic hardship, applying to colleges online, attending certain programs on campus, and being the child or sibling of a graduate. Prospective students usually have to check with the individual schools in which they are interested, as well as with their school guidance counselors, in order to determine their eligibility for fee waivers.

College application fee waivers are frequently available to students from low-income families, who can demonstrate that their earnings are below a certain level and that paying college application fees would be an economic hardship. U.S. students who have qualified for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT®) Fee-Waiver Service can usually also apply for college application fee waivers. Students are typically allowed waivers for a maximum of four applications to schools that participate in the program. To do so, the student usually needs to request a signed statement of eligibility from his or her guidance counselor.


Furthermore, when students apply to colleges online, they can often have their college application fees waived. In a sense, the college is rewarding the applicant for saving them time and reducing their paperwork by submitting his or her application electronically. Students can check the guidelines for the specific colleges to which they are applying in order to determine if they can waive the application fees by applying online.

Some institutions reduce or waive fees if prospective applicants attend special information sessions or diversity programs, for example. Others offer fee waivers just for visiting the campus in person prior to applying. They also might waive fees for applicants in certain situations, such as being active in the military or another form of public service. Children and siblings of alumni at certain schools can also sometimes have their college application fees waived. Often called a legacy waiver, it might also be granted to an applicant whose parent won a particular award from the institution.

In many cases, simply meeting certain application deadlines could result in waived or reduced fees. When trying to avoid paying college application fees, a common first step is to consult with one’s guidance counselor for advice. In some instances, the applicants might need to submit documentation that they are from low-income families, for example. Otherwise, students can contact college admissions offices on their own to inquire about such waivers.


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