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How Much Do College Applications Cost?

December 02, 2018


The average cost of a college application fee is approximately $43, according to a study by US News, and the most common fee is $50 for a college admissions application. Stanford University application fees reached $90 in the most recent analysis, with at least 50 Ivy League schools charging $75 per application.


Time recently reported that “more than eight in 10 students applied to at least three colleges in 2015...and 35% of seniors applied to 7 or more colleges.”


What it all adds up to: You could be spending hundreds or even thousands on your applications - before you even get in!


It is plain to see that the process of even applying to school requires a good chunk of funds. This is before you have even selected a specific school and started the long-term process of paying for college.


How Can I Avoid the High Cost of College Application Fees?

There are several ways that you can keep your college application fees low and sometimes even get them waived altogether, saving exponentially. It is recommended before you even start applying to school that you narrow your choices down to approximately five to eight schools in total.   


Staying organized is of the utmost importance. That way you avoid deadlines and make the most out of the time that you have. Once you have selected the schools that you would like to apply to, check with those schools to make sure you submit as early as possible and verify any deadlines. Some institutions will offer early application waivers for those who submit admission applications early. This will also help you ensure that you avoid any potential late fees. In addition, some colleges and universities will host fairs and offer to waive application fees for those in attendance. To take advantage of these, keep your eyes out for institution-specific events at the schools that interest you.


Another way to keep college application costs low is to apply to state schools. These schools generally boast lower application fees (or even none at all). In fact, some schools actually have no application fee at all. You can find a comprehensive list of these schools here.


Selecting one of these schools will certainly keep more money in your pocket. Other schools offer an application fee waiver if you send your application in online.


Another way to eliminate college application fees is to apply for a waiver, which you will be able to do if you meet certain criteria. There are several conditions that may grant application fee waivers. These conditions include the following:

  • If you had submitted and been granted an SAT or ACT fee waiver request, you may be eligible to receive a fee waiver for your college entrance applications.

  • If you qualify for a variety of federally subsidized housing or receive government assistance as a condition of being categorized as low income, you may be eligible to receive a fee waiver.

  • If you are a member of certain programs such as Upward Bound, for example, you may be eligible.

  • If you are in foster care or considered an orphan, you may also qualify for assistance.

Generally, you will need to indicate on your electronic or paper application that you are applying for or planning to receive a fee waiver. You can also obtain an application fee waiver form by contacting the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Also, it is a good idea to contact the school where you are applying to see if there are any special requirements or verification forms that they may need to process in order to consider you for this application fee waiver. Since payment (or a waiver) is part of the application package when applying for a college, it is a good idea to know ahead of time what you will be needing to submit to ensure that your application package is complete.