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Articles / Paying for College / ACT Fee Waiver for Older Applicant?

ACT Fee Waiver for Older Applicant?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | April 23, 2016

Hi Dean, I've been out of school for 5 years and I'm planning to reapply for college but I just found out my ACT scores aren't any good anymore so I need to retake the test but I'm broke so I don't really have the money for the test fees so I was wondering if you might know if there was a cheaper test that colleges would accept or if I'd be eligible for some kind of fee waiver.

“The Dean" does not have great news, but perhaps there are some positives that you can extract from this. The ACT folks will only grant fee waivers to high school students and there isn't a cheaper test to replace it. BUT … if you contact the colleges that interest you, they may be willing to waive testing requirements for non-traditional students or even to allow you to submit your old ACT score although it's “expired."

But a big concern for “The Dean" is this:

If you're too broke to take the ACT, how can you afford college? The cost of the test, although unpleasant, is a drop in the bucket compared to what tuition, fees, housing, books, supplies, etc. will run you. Even with financial aid, you are going to have a lot of expenses that eclipse a test fee.

So your best bet may be to enroll in a community college and earn your Associates degree. Then, when you apply to transfer to a four-year school, you will not have to submit test scores. (And many colleges don't require tests from any transfer students, even if they haven't earned the Associates degree. But some do, so you'd need to check on the schools you're considering.)

I think it's great that you've decided to return to school after a hiatus. Professors tend to love older students, finding them more mature (duh!) and focused than most 18-year-olds. If your past academic record is strong (either from high school or from any college work you've done since) and if you are an attractive candidate for other reasons (e.g., extracurricular or employment achievements, atypical background) you may be able to cajole admission folks into making a testing exception for you and you might be able to wangle a spot at a college with top-shelf financial aid without having to take the community college route.

But, as you start off on this adventure, be sure you have a plan that will allow you to finance your education through its conclusion, and remember that paying for those ornery standardized tests is just the tip of the iceberg!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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