Yes, There IS Such a Thing as a Free Application

The average student spends about $280 on application fees. With a little bit of research, you can bring that cost down to zero.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years, here's a wake up call: college is EXPENSIVE. And it's not just the tuition, textbooks and living expenses that add up, the costs start coming before you even get to campus. One culprit: the application fee.

Application fees can really range in cost, with some of the most expensive fees clocking in at $100. Given that the average student applies to 7 different schools, that's $280 on application fees alone. It might surprise you to learn that, with a little prudence and research, it's completely possible to pay little to nothing on fees.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Apply wisely.

Don't apply to schools you know you have no desire to attend. This is not to say that you shouldn't apply to a safety school or two that aren't at the top of the list of schools you want to go to. Applying somewhere you know you won't attend is not a safety school, it's a waste of your time and money.

2. Check your timing.

Some schools and regions waive application fees for students who apply before mid to late November. For example, in an effort to get students to stay in state for college, many schools in North Carolina participate in College Application Week (from November 14-18th this year) which allows students to apply for free.

3. Who do you know?

Some schools waive application fees for students who are referred through alumni. Gonzaga University encourages alumni to refer friends, children of friends, or family members for a free application. There are some schools that require you to be a legacy in order to apply for free, so if you're applying to the alma mater of a parent it's worth looking into.

4. Get out your computer.

Applying online instead of on paper often means that your application will be much cheaper, if not free. Drexel, Furman and Wellesley are three schools that offer free online applications. To see more schools click here.

5. Hit the road.

Some schools, such as Albright College in Pennsylvania, waive the application fees of prospective students who visit campus. Realizing that the cost of visiting the campus is often significant enough, some admissions offices allow visitors to apply for free. In addition, some schools team up to help students who are visiting campuses that are close to each other. Virginia Private College Week occurs in late July and includes 25 schools such as Washington and Lee University, the University of Richmond, Randolph-Macon College and Hollins University. Students who participate can get fee waivers at three different schools.

6. Talk to your counselor.

If you demonstrate financial need, you can apply for a fee waiver for applications, the SAT and the ACT. Your guidance counselor can help you apply for application fee waivers at up to four schools, although the schools much approve them individually. Alternatively, you can also apply yourself through the National Association of College Admissions Counselors or the College Board.

7. Apply to a school with no application fee.

This was an easy one, but you might not be aware that there are many schools that don't charge application fees at all. To see a list, click here.

If you're not sure where to apply to save money, check out our College Wizard to get a list of recommendations!

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