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College Application Fee Waivers

Which students are eligible and how they can apply

With the college application fee averaging $35–50, applying to several colleges can be expensive for any student. It may be prohibitive for some families, especially those on the lower end of the economic scale. Let your students and their parents know that they may be eligible for waivers of these fees

Financial hardship

The fee waiver request forms described below should be given out on the basis of family financial hardship. After your student completes a waiver, you may be asked to detail the student's financial hardship in writing.

NACAC fee waiver form

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) provides a form called the "Request for Application Fee Waiver" to be completed by students with the help of their high school counselor. This document, which you can download from the NACAC site, is updated annually.

Suggested annual family income guidelines for this waiver depend on family size. However, income is not the only determining factor in application fee waivers; many are based on the counselor's personal knowledge of family circumstances.

College Board fee waiver form

Students who have taken advantage of the College Board's SAT® Fee-Waiver Service — which covers the basic test fees for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests— may also be eligible for up to four application fee waivers for colleges.

You should have received these "Request for Waiver of College Application Fee" forms as part of the SAT Program fee-waiver materials shipped to you in the summer, and you can distribute these to your students as necessary. If you need additional forms, call the Educator Helpline at 888-SAT-HELP (728-4357). For more information, see the Counselor's Guide to Fee Waivers for the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests (.pdf/1.1MB). Requires Adobe Reader (latest version recommended).

Note that your student may have to include a copy of the SAT fee waiver form with the application fee waiver request form.

Eligibility

To be eligible for SAT Program fee waivers (and thus for up to four college application fee waivers), a student must be either an American citizen or a foreign national who is testing in the United States or U.S. territories. Eligibility is determined by family income or by participation in a public assistance or other program for economically disadvantaged families. The income guidelines are based on those of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program.

Maximum of four

Make sure your students understand that each student can receive and use up to four "Request for Waiver of College Application Fee" forms. They should only send the forms with their applications to institutions that are listed in the SAT Fee-Waiver Directory of Colleges (.pdf/1.34MB).

Individual colleges' policies

Although most colleges follow the general guidelines of the NACAC and College Board for determining fee waiver recipients, individual institutions' policies vary. Research the policies of the colleges your students are applying to, especially state institutions or systems — they may have their own forms and income guidelines. If students meet the basic criteria of each institution, it's almost certain they'll be granted the waiver.

Determining who might qualify for a waiver

How do you determine which students may qualify for a fee waiver? If you have access to the list of students in the free or reduced-price lunch program, you will have an indication of who might qualify. However, some public schools don't give that information to counselors.

Talking with students about finances is difficult and as Carol Lemmon, a high school counselor in Texas, points out, "most students are pretty clueless about their financial situation. Even our middle-class students think they are poor." If possible, meet with parents and explain the income guidelines used to determine eligibility for fee waivers. Explain, too, that the college will verify the information using FAFSA.

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