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Articles / Admissions / Application Fee Waivers

May 27, 2020

Application Fee Waivers

Question: Can you tell me about application fee waivers and how I can get them?

There are several ways to get a fee waiver when applying to college. If you come from a low-income family and feel that paying an application fee would be a hardship, then you can get your application fee waived by most colleges. You need to include with each application a signed statement from your guidance counselor which confirms that you and your family cannot afford to pay application fees. Some colleges include fee-waiver forms with their applications; some high schools have their own forms or use those provided by the National Association for College Admission Counseling or by the College Board. However, it doesn't really matter how or where the request is written. Your counselor can simply jot a note on school stationery if he or she doesn't have an official fee-waiver document.


While colleges rarely provide hard-and-fast guidelines stating who is eligible and who is not, typically it is families with a household income under about $40,000. However, depending on the size of the family and various extenuating circumstances, that figure can fluctuate, and eligibility is generally left to the discretion of the guidance counselor.

The point of fee waivers is to ease a student's burden due to financial hardship, and they are not meant for those who simply don't feel like shelling out the extra dough, so only make the request if you truly need to. (Every once in a while, admission officials catch a student using a fee waiver who doesn't deserve one, and this can impact admission outcomes.)

If you don't have financial hardship, there are still sometimes other ways to wiggle out of the application fee. For instance, a growing number of colleges and universities will waive their fees for those who apply online. Some schools also give waivers to students who attend various on-campus programs, whose parents are alumni, who won an award sponsored by that college, etc. Feel free to check with the colleges on your list to see what fee-waiver options exist.

Written by

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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