Where to Find College Application Fee Waivers

If you have found your way to this article, you have probably already researched the rising costs of college. In fact, the bills start before you even get in — most colleges charge a fee just to apply for admission.

On average, those fees range from $30 to $77 per school. If you’re applying to multiple colleges, they can really add up. Fortunately, it is possible to have these application fees waived — if you know your options.

Here are some college application fee waivers you can pursue:

NACAC Waivers

The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) waiver is primarily for current high school students who are planning to go to college immediately after graduation. Homeschooled students can also apply for this waiver by getting in contact with a local school in advance, or by having the person in charge of their schooling complete the necessary form and send an additional letter.

To begin the process of applying for this waiver, you must get in touch with your high school’s college counselor, an independent counselor, or TRIO representative. The counselor will have to complete one part of the waiver application form, and you’ll have to fill out another part. The NACAC waiver is intended to be used for the applicant’s top choices, and it covers up to four schools. Once you and your counselor fill out the waiver, you must mail it directly to the colleges you are applying to, and the institutions in turn decide whether to accept it.

The information provided by the counselor or representative encompasses not only family income, but also her knowledge of your family’s circumstances. Even if you do not meet any of the specifically-listed eligibility requirements (qualifying for Free or Reduced Price School Meals, receiving public assistance, and living in public housing, among others), the counselor can write about why paying college application fees would be a hardship for your family. It may be helpful to form a solid relationship with your counselor to ensure she knows about your family’s particular situation.

SAT Fee Waiver

Another method of obtaining a college application fee waiver is via the College Board’s SAT Fee-Waiver Service. This service not only waives fees for the SAT and SAT subject tests, but it can also provide fee waivers for up to four college applications.

If you are approved for the test fee waiver, then you will be approved for the college application fee waivers as well — and you will not need to fill out additional forms. Here’s how it works: You will be notified that you have received your College Admissions Fee Waiver Form, which you will be able to access through your SAT account, as on this sample form.

The eligibility requirements for the SAT waiver are similar to the requirements for Free or Reduced Price School Meals, so if you qualify for a free lunch, then you probably also qualify for this service. Other qualifying conditions include being enrolled in a TRIO or Upward Bound program; living in federally-subsidized public housing; being in foster care; being homeless; or having a family income that is relatively small compared to the size of your family. More specifics can be found here.

College-Specific Waivers

It’s perfectly acceptable to call the admissions office of the college to which you are applying and request a waiver. Many will grant it right then and there, while others will request a letter from an authority figure (one of the aforementioned types of counselors, a parent, guardian, or clergy member) to explain your financial situation.

Other times, fees are waived or reduced if the application is submitted online rather than sent by mail. And according to Unigo’s Irene Starygina, “In some cases, application fees can be waived if you attended a college’s summer program, have alumni of the school in your family, or are eligible to receive financial aid or scholarship funds.”

Requirements will vary, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. It’s also worth noting that in these situations, the request is treated a little more subjectively than with financial aid — decisions tend to be made on an “honor system” rather than via requests for financial documents.