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How Can I Apply to College for Free?

If you’re a student getting ready to apply for college, you might experience some shock when it comes time to pay for the college application fees.

The average college application fee costs $43. If you’re in the 35 percent of students who apply to seven or more schools, that’s $301 you have spent before you’ve even been admitted to a single school.

If you’re wondering how you can apply to college for free, we have a few ways you can cut costs and end up paying nothing.

Why Do Colleges Charge an Application Fee?

Most colleges do have an application fee because it helps them supplement the cost of reviewing a student’s application. While this is not a school’s biggest source of revenue, it often does help bring in a few million dollars.

Since application fees are generally nonrefundable, some schools want to charge an application fee because it helps weed out students who don’t actually plan to attend.

Do All Schools Charge an Application Fee?

We have some exciting news for you: No, not all colleges charge an application fee! Yes, that means it is free to apply. 

Doing your research ahead of time if any of these schools offer your major and fit your needs will help you decide if it’s worth applying.

If you do plan to apply to several schools, applying to a few schools with no application fee will help you cut down on your overall application costs.  

What About the Schools that Do Charge a Fee?

It’s true that most colleges do charge an application fee. However, you can apply for an application fee waiver to help you submit yours at no cost.

More than 2,000 schools accept a fee waiver. You’ll want to research ahead of time when you should apply for this because some schools want you to apply for the waiver before submitting the application. But on the Common App, all you have to do is check a box indicating you’ll be applying for a waiver.

If you previously applied for and were granted an SAT waiver, you are automatically granted four college application fee waivers. You can access these through your College Board account. Usually, you’ll have to upload a copy of this waiver attached to your college application.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) also offers a Request for Application Fee Waiver Form to students with limited financial resources.

For schools that do accept a waiver, you can find more information how to specifically apply for a waiver to that school on the admissions page on their website.

You should also set up a meeting with your high school guidance counselor because you’ll likely need them to verify your status of needing the waiver.
If you want to either cut your cost of college applications—or pay nothing at all— planning ahead will help make that a reality. Doing your research on waiver deadlines, filling out your application and talking to a high school counselor will help you apply to college for free.

Students should also check out the College Board website, which offers information on which schools charge application fees as well as details on free college applications through fee waivers.

By Josh Moody

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