November 30, 2023

How to get a college application fee waiver?

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When applying to college, one of the hidden costs that can add up quickly is the application fee. These fees, often ranging from $30 to $75 per application, can be a significant burden for many students. However, many are unaware that they can get these fees waived through a college application fee waiver. This guide will provide you with the essential steps and tips to obtain a waiver, easing your college application journey.

Understanding Fee Waivers

A college application fee waiver is a request to have the application fee for a college or university waived. This is typically based on financial need, but there are other criteria that can qualify you as well. It's important to understand that fee waivers are not automatic; they require action on your part.

Who is Eligible?

Eligibility for fee waivers generally depends on financial need. You might be eligible if you meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • You’ve received or are eligible to receive an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver.
  • You are enrolled in or eligible to participate in the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program (FRPL).
  • Your family income meets the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
  • You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in a federally subsidized public housing, a foster home, or are homeless.
  • You are a ward of the state or an orphan.

How to Apply for a Fee Waiver

  1. Through Standardized Testing: If you received an SAT or ACT fee waiver, you're automatically eligible for college application fee waivers from participating colleges.

  2. Through the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC): High school counselors can provide you with a NACAC Request for Application Fee Waiver form after you've completed your application to the college.

  3. Through the College Board’s College Application Fee Waiver Program: Students who are eligible for the SAT fee waiver are also eligible for this program.

  4. Directly from Colleges: Some colleges have their own fee waiver application process. Visit the admissions website of the colleges you are interested in, or contact their admissions office directly.

Tips for Success

  • Start Early: Begin the fee waiver process well in advance of application deadlines.
  • Keep Records: Keep a copy of any paperwork you submit, and don’t hesitate to follow up with colleges if you haven’t received a response.
  • Communicate with Your Counselor: Your high school counselor is a valuable resource. They can help you with the NACAC fee waiver and provide guidance on other possible fee waiver options.
  • Research Each College’s Policy: Each college has its own process and criteria for fee waivers. Make sure you understand what each college requires.
  • Consider Applying to Colleges That Don’t Have an Application Fee: Some colleges don’t charge an application fee at all, which can be another way to save money.


Applying for college application fee waivers can significantly reduce the financial burden of the college application process. By understanding your eligibility, knowing how to apply, and taking advantage of the resources available to you, you can navigate this process more effectively. Remember, every dollar saved on application fees is a dollar that can be used toward your future education.