In What Instances Will an Application Fee for Colleges Be Waived?

university applicationWhen you’re applying to school, you might be asking if there are instances where an application fee for colleges can be waived. After all, application fees can add up in no time, and some universities charge $40 or more to apply for a program. Fortunately, there are several times when you might not have to pay the fee depending on your financial need and other factors. Schools throughout the United States will waive an application fee in an effort to draw more candidates and prevent financial barriers to education. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask.

Financial Need

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling or NACAC, students who qualify based on financial need can apply to college for free using the NACAC Request for Application Fee Waiver Form, available online. The form needs to be downloaded, filled out, signed by a high school admissions counselor and mailed from the high school with an official stamp or seal verifying its authenticity. Students qualify for a fee waiver form if they:

  • Qualify to take the ACT or SAT for free
  • Participate in the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program
  • Come from a family whose income meets the USDA eligibility guidelines
  • Receive public assistance, live in federally subsidized housing or take part in a government program designed for low-income families
  • Live in a foster home or are an orphan or a ward of the state

Colleges don’t have to accept the fee waiver form, but it’s likely that a student who can demonstrate financial need will be eligible for an application fee waiver. There are a variety of resources available to students who have limited income.

Virtual Applications

More and more traditional admissions procedures have been replaced or modified using virtual application portals. Some schools waive their application fees for online applicants, most likely because it costs much less to process an online application than it does to read through a paper packet. You don’t even need to be applying to an online program to take advantage of this feature. Check with the schools you’re interested in to see if they waive the fee for online applicants.

Asking for Help

For students who aren’t first-time applicants, those who don’t qualify for financial needs-based waivers or those without access to other fee waiver options, there’s always the option to ask for assistance. According to U.S. News and World Report, many universities are more than willing to adjust or waive application fees for people who know someone at the school, attend on-campus tours beforehand, sit for an interview with an admissions counselor or simply ask. Taking the initiative to ask for an application fee waiver demonstrates a student’s commitment to attending college, and assertive applicants are often rewarded.

Related Resource: Common Application

Keep in mind that most colleges will only waive their application fees for traditional, first-time students straight out of high school or those who have never attended college before. However, some schools waive their fees for nontraditional students such as veterans because they want to attract different demographics. Students will find that certain schools are more willing to accommodate their needs than others. In any case, it never hurts to ask admissions offices about instances where an application fee for colleges can be waived.