By Faith Evans on September 22nd, 2020
What to Do When College App Fees Are a Barrier to Entry
College applications fees make one fact abundantly clear: most schools are happy to start taking money out of your pockets before you’ve even been accepted. But there is a bit of good news here: if you plan ahead and ask around, you shouldn’t have to break the bank to send in applications.
Budget your short-list
You might be tempted to do the math right now: “If I apply to five schools with average application fees of$60, that’s $300. But that doesn’t account for the test scores and transcripts I have to send…” Hit pause for a second. Hypothetical math will only stress you out.
Before you worry about any fees, figure out your school short-list. That will give you a starting point for your application budget. From there, you might find a surprising number that accept fee waivers, or don’t charge any fees at all. While a quick Google search will probably tell you all you need to know, you can also look up your school on The Common Application to get quick general details. If your school is in their directory, you’ll quickly find information on fees and standardized testing requirements.
Even if fees look to be a major barrier, don’t create your school short-list based on which schools have no such fees. That strategy might save you money right now, but in the long run, you’re going to want to take into account your personal school preferences, along with tuition and housing affordability. College is a big investment of time and money, even if a scholarship is in the offing – choosing the right school for you is important enough that you should go the extra mile to seek fee wavers or scrounge up the money.
Know where you’re sending test scores
Chances are, at least a few of your schools will require that you send them your standardized test scores. This is where having a school short-list ahead of time can start to save you money.
That’s because while you’re filling out the general personal information section of the ACT and SAT (and AP tests), you have the option to list schools you want your scores to go to. This is your official window of opportunity to send a limited number of score reports for free. Once that window closes, it’ll cost between $11 and $15, depending on the test.
Also check to see whether you’re eligible for an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver – even if your school pays for you to take the test. Getting the test fee waived beforehand can open up other benefits, including sending unlimited test scores to schools for free, even after you’ve taken the test and seen your results.
Talk to your counselor
If you’re in a large high school, you might not even know your academic counselor’s name. Now is the time to get friendly! Not only can they help you figure out whether you can waive the ACT and SAT test fees, but they also might have access to application fee waivers for schools on your short-list. And, if sending your school transcripts comes with a price tag, they might be able to pull some strings to help you do it for free.
All of this is highly dependent on your counselor and school policies, but it won’t hurt to swing by their office to see what they can do for you. They have exclusive access to certain resources that might help you out financially.
Call the admissions office and get creative
There’s a distinct chance that your admissions office has...weird...application fee exceptions. If they won’t accept a waiver based on financial need, they might waive it for touring the campus or having an exceptional ACT or SAT score. Check early application deadlines to see if it costs less to apply. Look at whether there’s a price difference for sending your application on paper versus online. Offer to send them your viral Tik-Tok dance video, which is definitely worth more than that $72 application fee.
At the end of the day, college application fees are negotiable. If they’re standing as a barrier to entry for you, don’t strike your dream schools from your list—take a bit of time to see what the College Board, the CommonApp, the school itself, and your counselor can do to help you send in your application.