How to Use College Application Fee Waivers

Cost is typically the number one concern students and families have during the college application process. And in addition to the major expenses, you’ll have as a college student, you’ll also have to consider the smaller—but still significant—costs associated with applying for admission. These costs, or “fees,” are sometimes required to take college entrance exams, send test scores, and submit college applications.

However, if you’re concerned about whether you’ll be able to cover application and testing fees, it’s worth figuring out if you qualify for fee waivers. Fee waivers are intended to “waive” or remove the cost of certain steps in the admissions process for students who would be unable to pay. In general, students who participate in programs for low-income families can qualify.

In addition to financial aid and scholarships, fee waivers can be an important way of offsetting some college expenses. This overview will help you understand how and when to use the different types of waivers.


Who Qualifies for College Application Fee Waivers and Testing Waivers?

Your school counselor can help confirm your eligibility and apply for your fee waivers. If your family is unable to pay for college entrance exams or college applications and you are home-schooled or can’t participate in the National School Lunch Program at your school, you may be eligible for a fee waiver if your family meets the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Income Eligibility Guidelines or receives public assistance.

Students in the foster care system and those participating in governmental or locally funded programs like TRIO and Upward Bound are also eligible for fee waivers.


Using Entrance Exam Waivers

Even if you cannot take an SAT or ACT exam this year, both testing organizations provide college application fee waivers to eligible students. These fee waivers are valid for your senior year, but checking the fine print before using them is important. Check with your school counselor to get the appropriate fee waiver code before registering for one of these exams or applying for college.

SAT Fee Waiver

Beyond waiving the standard $55 SAT registration fee, the 12-digit SAT fee waiver code lets you send your SAT scores to as many colleges as you’d like – for free. Once you’ve gotten your waiver code, log into your College Board account and type the code into the “Got a Fee Waiver” section. This is where you will also check the status of your score reports or complete a free CSS profile for any of the colleges on your list that require it.

When you’ve finalized your college list, check out which schools will accept your SAT fee waiver for your admissions application. (Hint: A few colleges and universities won’t require you to type in your fee waiver code. They just need to know that you’re eligible.)

ACT Fee Waiver

ACT provides up to four exam fee waivers for eligible students. The standard ACT exam fee is $60 (or $85 with the writing section). Each waiver has a code printed in the top-right corner. You will use this waiver code to register for the ACT test(s), but you’ll also get free access to online test prep. After your test scores become available, use the fee waiver to send your scores to up to twenty colleges. Then, request for your college application fee to be waived, too.


College Application Fee Waivers


Coalition Application

The Coalition Application and Common Application will both ask if you are eligible for a fee waiver. To request a fee waiver within the Coalition Application, answer yes to at least one of the “Fee Waiver” questions in your MyCoalition Profile. The list of schools that will waive their fee will update automatically based on your answers. This could save you from paying college application fees that range from $10 to $180! Your counselor must approve your request, so you can bypass the payment screen for each college application you submit.

Common Application

Similarly, you can request a fee waiver in the “Profile” section of your Common Application if you meet at least one qualification. Once your counselor confirms your request, the fee waiver will apply to each of your Common App schools.

Schools Not Using Coalition or Common Application

If the colleges on your list don’t use the Coalition or Common Application, download the NACAC Request for Admission Application Fee Waiver. Fill in your basic information and the Economic Need section before you submit the waiver and send it directly to the admissions office.

Special Requirements for Fee Waivers

Some states (for example, California) offer a separate online system to apply to their public institutions that may include additional fee waiver questions. Other colleges may provide fee waivers if you attend a fly-in or visit program.

Be sure to review your college list with your high school or CBO counselor to identify the correct waiver process for each college application.

Do you know all the college application requirements on your list? Click the admissions tab on our college profiles to discover more application fee information.