Avoiding Application Costs

Meghna Chhabra ‘20, Prospect Hill Academy

You’ve taken your tests. You’ve written your essays. You’re ready to submit your applications, but there’s one more piece of the puzzle. Some colleges charge application fees to help pay for reading your college application and making admission decisions. And, ironically, some financial aid services like the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile charge you to apply. So while you may want to apply to 20 schools, keep in mind that there will be a cost. 

Application costs

College applications can range from anywhere between $40 to $90, though the average application fee is $60. Luckily, not all schools charge application fees, or may offer fee waiver programs (we’ll talk about these a bit later).

Additional costs

There are some additional costs for taking the SAT and ACT, sending in your SAT and ACT score reports, and submitting your CSS profile to the schools you’re applying to. 

  • The SAT costs $49.50 (no essay) or $64.50 (with essay). There’s an additional $30 fee if you registered late. 
  • The ACT costs $52.00 (no writing) or $68.00 (with optional writing test). There’s an additional $29.50 fee if you registered late. 
  • It costs $12 for each school you send your SAT score report to, and $13 for each school you send your ACT score report to.
  • The CSS Profile costs $25 to fill out and send to one school. There’s a $16 charge for each additional school you send yourCSS Profile to.

Fee waivers

Those costs can be a little scary, and can add up pretty quickly. Luckily, there are several ways you can avoid the fees for the SAT, ACT, and college applications.

  • College Board offers fee waivers for students taking the SAT or ACT and when sending in score reports.
  • The Common App offers fee waivers when applying to schools.
  • Some colleges also offer their own fee waiver programs, which you may have to apply for separately. 

SAT waivers

You can avoid the SAT costs if: 

  • You’re enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • Your family’s income is within the Income Eligibility Guidelines.
  • You’re enrolled in a federal, state, or local program for low-income families (e.g., Federal TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in federally subsidized public housing or a foster home, or are homeless.
  • You’re a ward of the state, or an orphan.

You can use your SAT fee waiver as many times as you want. 

ACT waivers

To get an ACT fee waiver, you have to be a junior or senior, take your test in the US or a US territory, and meet one of the same standards set for the SAT (except for students who are orphans or wards of the state). Your fee waiver can only be used to send your score profile to a maximum of 20 schools. 

CSS Profile waivers

You can get a CSS Profile fee waiver if: 

  • You received a SAT fee waiver
  • Your family’s expected income is $45,000 or less, or
  • You’re an orphan or ward of the state under the age of 24.

Other options

If you don’t qualify for any of these fee waivers, there are still plenty of options. Try some of the following: 

  • Apply to diversity and outreach programs at colleges
  • Email your admission representatives at colleges explaining your financial circumstances
  • Just ask for one! Colleges might give you one if you show demonstrated interest in the school.