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What to Know About College Application Fee Waivers

You Should Know About College Application Fee Waivers

If you are applying to college and are in a difficult financial position, you should know about the prevalence of college application fee waivers for students in your position. Many parents and other adults know the application costs of applying to several schools and imprint this knowledge on younger students. Application fees for each individual college can range from $25 to $100, and if you are applying to several schools this can add up in a hurry.

Luckily, there are ways to reduce this expense. Read below to find your situation.

+ You received an SAT or ACT fee waiver.

If you already received for one of these fee waivers, it will allow you to automatically qualify for unlimited free fee waivers for schools that use the Common application, the Coalition application, or the Universal application.

These three generic applications will grant you free access to around 1000 different colleges (about 800 of which are in the most popular Common application). You should receive your application fee waiver at the same time you receive your test results.

Here is how you can qualify for an SAT or ACT waiver (from CollegeBoard):

-You’re enrolled in (or eligible for) the National School Lunch Program
-You’re enrolled in a program to assist low-income students
-Your family receives public assistance
-You live in subsidized housing or a foster home or are homeless
-You are a ward of the state or an orphan

+ You didn’t get an SAT or ACT waiver but still exhibit financial hardships

If you haven’t taken these tests or did not know about the fee waivers, it is still possible to elect for a Common application fee waiver. This will allow you to apply to as many Common App schools as you want for free.

The Common App has the same criteria for qualification as the SAT fee waiver (see above), with one extra criteria: “You can provide a supporting statement from a school official, college access counselor, financial aid officer, or community leader” (from CommonApp.org). Your school counselor will be asked to confirm your qualification for a fee waiver. Make sure you talk to them if you think you need one for your applications.

+ You don’t qualify for either fee waiver or want to apply to non-waived schools

First, you should know that around 45% of colleges on the Common App do now charge a fee (as of 2018, via USNews). This means that you have access to over 300 schools you can apply to without any charge. Many students do not realize this and assume that every application will cost them.

You can also request fee waivers from schools. This is the part that can save you a lot of money if you are applying to many colleges and don’t qualify for the standard waivers. Reach out to the schools that you want to apply to and request a fee waiver or fee reduction for their application.

When doing so, you can explain your situation to support your need for a waiver, or you can simply ask. Colleges don’t want to lose potential applicants, especially potentially desirable applicants, and most will have the funds readily available to waive many students’ application fees to encourage them to apply. Some colleges even send out application fees to students they’re interested in without being asked.

The worst that can happen is that they deny your request or do not offer waivers. If this happens, you simply have to decide if it is still financially worth it to apply. Here are a few tips to aid you in requests:

-Ask early. Admissions officers will be swamped with emails and applications in the month leading up to their deadline. Ask months in advance and they will be less busy. Asking early will also increase your chances if the school only offers a certain number of waivers per year.
-State your case. Explain why you really want to apply to the school but that the cost is prohibitive for you to do so. If you were eligible for the waivers above, explain that to them.
-Be polite and formal. Hopefully, this is obvious, but you do not want to be rude or short in your request. Treat an email as a regular letter with a friendly greeting and signature at the bottom.

Application fees should never hold you back from applying to great colleges that can improve your future. Many schools are already free to apply to, and many others are able to waive your fee if you need it. Talk to your school counselor for more help in your application process.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

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