Sadhvi Mathur 7 min read Applying to College, Financial Aid

The Complete Guide to Fee Waivers in the College Application Process

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Aside from the well-known tuition fees and other college costs, many additional payments can arise during the college applications process. College applications, standardized tests, and some financial aid applications require an additional fee from students.

Fortunately, there are various fee waivers available to help offset these pesky costs for those for whom paying these extra costs poses a financial difficulty. By utilizing the various fee waivers at your disposal, the college application process can become much cheaper.



Though each application or registration fee is generally less than one hundred dollars, the costs of the application process can definitely add up. Starting from the club fees you paid in high school to add extracurriculars to your application, to the registration payment for each SAT/ACT you took as an upperclassmen, all the way to the $50-$75 fee associated with each college application submission, the total cost of applying to colleges can add up to several hundred dollars.

Particularly for low-income families, these costs can be daunting. After all, even if you qualify for college financial aid, it will not apply to any of the pre-college fees.

That is why various institutions and organizations have started offering fee waivers-to aid lower income families who struggle with the costs of applying to college. Each fee waiver has its own requirements and attainment processes, so we at CV have outlined the most common ones and answered some of the frequently asked questions regarding fee waivers.


Types of Waivers

SAT/SAT Subject Test Waiver

The SAT has a minimum registration cost of $45, and SAT Subject Tests have a registration fee of $26 for one test date, during which you can take up to three tests.

However, CollegeBoard has provided a very comprehensive fee waiver, designed primarily for citizens/residents of the United States. The waiver covers the cost of up to two SAT’s, two SAT subject test administrations, four score reports, and four college application fee waivers.

In order to be eligible for this fee waiver, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • enrolled in the National School Lunch Program
  • meet the Income Eligibility Requirements set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service
  • enrolled in a government program that aids students of low income families
  • receive public assistance
  • be a ward of the state/orphan
  • be homeless/in a foster home.

If you meet one of the above requirements, simply contact a high school counselor or a representative of an authorized community-based organization to get your fee waiver. The waiver will come in the form of a 12-digit code, which you will enter when you register for the SAT/SAT subject test.

ACT Test Waiver

The ACT registration fee is $39.50 for each test registration, or $56.50 if you choose to include the writing section.

The ACT fee waiver covers the two registration fees for both the ACT and writing section. In addition, you get one free score report to your high school and up to four score reports to colleges. This fee waiver also gives students access to extra test prep tools and a Request for Waiver or Deferral of College Admission Application Fee form, which could negate your application fees or one or more university.

To be eligible for this fee waiver, you must be an 11th or 12th grade student, testing in the United States, and be able to show economic need based on you or your family’s income level. One can show economic need by meeting any of the requirements listed for the SAT/SAT subject test above.

If you qualify, you simply need to contact your high school counselor and fill out an ACT fee waiver form. Once you are approved for the waiver, you’ll be given a serial number. This will serve as an indication of your fee waiver when you register to take the ACT.

AP Test Waiver

Each AP test has a $93 per test registration fee for students testing inside the United States, and a $123 per test registration fee for those students testing outside the US. On average, most students at top universities have taken anywhere from 7-12 AP tests.

Unfortunately, there is no waiver that covers the entire cost of an AP test. There is, however, a Fee Reduction Program that, thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act, lowers the cost of each AP test to $15 in participating states and $53 per test in non-participating states starting with the 2017 AP Exam administration.

In order to receive this fee reduction, you must prove your financial need by meeting any of the requirements mentioned under “SAT/SAT Subject Test Waiver” or proving that your family is at or below 185 percent of the poverty level issued annually by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Also, if you belong to a school district that is part of The Community Eligibility Provision program, you automatically qualify for the fee reduction.

To learn more about AP Exam Fee Reductions, speak to your high school counselor.


Application Fee Waivers

In some cases, the university or platform that houses the college application will offer some sort of waiver option for the college application fee. The process of obtaining the waiver will depend on the college or university, and may have some specific requirements other than financial need. You will need to look up each university’s specific fee waiver requirements and plan accordingly, but here’s an overview of two common waivers that many universities use.

  • Common App Fee Waiver: Common App fee waivers are intended for college applicants whose financial circumstances would pose a major barrier to applying to college. You will need to prove your eligibility for the fee waiver and formally request it through your CommonApp account. To learn more about the Common App Fee Waiver, click here.
  • Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success Fee Waiver: Some colleges and universities belong to the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and they require you to submit your application through the Coalition platform. If that is the case for the specific college you are applying to, there is a fee waiver component built into the application itself. This consists of a few short questions that will be used to determine whether your financial situation meets the criteria for waiving your application fees. Some colleges under the coalition have their own requirements as well. For instance, some Coalition Schools require you to be an in-state resident of the college or university to be eligible for the fee waiver. Be sure to clarify each university’s fee waiver requirements before applying.


Are there fees/fee waivers for Financial Aid Applications?

It seems counter-intuitive to have students pay a fee to apply for financial aid. Thankfully, many financial aid applications, particularly the federal ones, agree and don’t charge an application fee. Unfortunately, there is one big exception to this rule: the CSS profile.

A nonfederal financial aid solution produced by CollegeBoard, the CSS Profile is used by many colleges and universities to assess a student’s and/or their parent’s financial situation. The fee for the initial application is $25, and every additional report of your profile to a college is $16.

There is, however, a fee waiver that covers both the application fees and the reporting fees for up to eight colleges as long as you are a US citizen or resident. There is no special process for this fee waiver – your candidacy will be decided based on the information you provide in your CSS PROFILE.

Recently, it has become possible to extend your SAT/SAT subject test fee waiver to the CSS profile fee waiver (and get the same coverage), as long as you log into your CSS profile with the same credentials you used when registering for the SAT.


What information will you need to apply for and receive these fee waivers?

Every fee waiver has slightly different requirements and processes. For instance, the Common App fee waiver only requires you to answer a few questions and verify your financial need, whereas the CSS profile requires much more comprehensive information regarding your family’s finances. You will need to look specifically at each fee waiver application to figure out what information you will need to have handy when you apply.

Furthermore, for those schools who use their own application and aren’t a part of Common App or a similar organization, their fees and fee waivers can be drastically different from that listed above. It is important to look at those fee waivers early and make sure you have the necessary documents.


How should I prepare for applying for waivers?

This is a difficult question, as every application for fee waivers, like every financial aid application, is different. The most important thing is to do your research on the different fee waivers. You’ll get a much better idea of how you should be preparing if you’ve done your homework.

That being said, there are two things that you should definitely prepare ahead of time, as most fee waiver applications require you to have them.

First, you will need to be able to prove your income level. Income can be proven in a variety of ways, and different fee waiver applications will accept different methods of demonstrating your income. Some common ways include recent tax returns and proof of membership in any federal aid programs.

Second, be sure to speak to a counselor at your high school about applying for waivers. More often than not, they are the ones who know the most about fee waivers and financial aid, and you may need their verification or a supporting statement for some of the applications. You should do this sooner rather than later. As college application deadlines near, high school counselors get extremely busy. You may not be able to get an appointment if you wait too long.


If you know you or your family may struggle with paying for college applications, know that there are many resources and waivers available to you – you just need to know where to look. Before you agree to pay those pesky fees or give up on the application altogether, take a moment to explore your waiver options. You may be eligible for more aid than you think.


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!