This post is was originally published on The Penny Hoarder
College is a major investment — an expensive one at that.
With all the talk about rising tuition and increasing student loan debt, one expense that typically flies under the radar occurs before you even get accepted: college application fees.
You can expect to spend about $42 a pop to submit a college application, according to the U.S. News and World Report.
College decision website Cappex lists nearly 50 schools where the application fees are $75 or more. Be prepared to fork over $85 if you want to attend Columbia University, $90 for Stanford University or $150 for Berklee College of Music — and that’s just to see if you’ll be accepted.
College application fees can be a financial barrier for some families. Luckily, there are ways to lower or eliminate them, as writer Kelly Anne Smith discussed in this post.
Getting an application fee waiver is an option for low-income families or students with a certain need. In order to get a fee waiver, students typically must meet one of the following criteria:
- The student is enrolled in or eligible to participate in a federal free or reduced-price lunch program at school.
- The family’s income level is at or below USDA levels for free or reduced-price lunch.
- The student is enrolled in a program for economically disadvantaged students (such as Upward Bound or GEAR UP).
- The family receives income-based public assistance or lives in federally subsidized public housing.
- The student resides in a foster home, is a ward of the state, is an orphan or is homeless.
Even if you don’t fall into one of the situations above, it doesn’t hurt to check with the school or write a letter to the admissions department to see if there are any other instances in which it will waive application fees. Perhaps your family has a unique circumstance, such as great deal of financial hardship due to medical expenses for an ill family member.
For those who do fall into one of the criteria listed above, here are some common routes to scoring an application fee waiver.
1. The National Association for College Admission Counseling
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) provides students in need with fee waivers for college applications.
2. College Board
If you qualified to have fees waived for taking the SAT, you may be able to get your college application fees waived as well.
The College Board, which administers the SAT, states on its site that students can apply to four participating schools for free if they took the SAT or SAT subject tests using a test fee waiver.
The College Board sends college application fee waivers to eligible students upon receiving their SAT scores (or if they’re a junior, in the fall of their senior year).
3. The ACT
If you took the ACT for free, you can request to have college application fees waived using this form. According to the eligibility requirements for the 2017-18 school year, there is no cap on how many schools students can apply to using the waiver form.
4. The Common Application
If you are applying to multiple schools using the Common Application, you can request application fee waivers through this process.
When completing your profile for the Common Application, request a waiver in the Common Application Fee Waiver section.
5. The Coalition Application
Students will need to answer related questions when filling out their Coalition profile. If they qualify, they’ll bypass the payment page when submitting their application to participating schools that accept the Coalition waivers.
Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.