College and SAT application fees can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars. What most high school seniors don’t know is that there’s a way to avoid these costs. If your household has a combined income of less than $40,000 a year and/or you already receive some kind of aid like lunch tickets, such fees can most likely be waived. 80% of colleges are part of the College Entrance Examination Board Fee Waiver Program. If you are approved for an SAT fee waiver, you can also use the same waiver at up to six different colleges when applying. Don’t assume that this happens automatically, however. Your counselor needs to approve your request and issue a signed statement of need for college applications and a special waiver code when you register for the SAT online.
Approaching your counselor with this sensitive topic might feel uncomfortable, but think about how much money you’ll be saving for books and dorm room decorations your first semester. While the rules are strict – applicants who abuse this system can sometimes be denied admission if caught – they are flexible. If your household doesn’t fall under the less than $40K a year bracket and you’re still having a hard time paying the fees, you should still seek out your counselor, who is more likely to grant you a fee waiver if presented with a compelling argument.
Even if your family isn’t experiencing financial constraints, you may not need to type in your credit card number on the Web when applying to colleges. In an effort to expedite the application process and be more “green,” an increasing number of colleges are waiving their application fee if students apply online instead of mailing in those messy paper forms. Check with your counselor or college of interest for special incentives. In some cases, application fees can be waived if you attended a college’s summer program, have alumni of the school in your family or are eligible to receive financial aid or scholarship funds.
What if your guidance counselor is nowhere to be found, or you fell behind in the application process and it’s now crunch time? Take initiative and call the college’s admissions office yourself. Explain your situation and you will most likely also get some great advice about additional financial aid, scholarships and work study programs that you weren’t aware of