Sending your money – or your parents’ money – to colleges begins well before you enroll. Many students are so focused on the nail-biting task of filling out applications that they don’t stop and think about the fees that many colleges charge just for reviewing your undergraduate application.
With most colleges charging somewhere around $50 per application, the money can add up quickly.
Why do colleges charge application fees?
In general, colleges charge fees in order to offset the cost of reviewing and assessing an often staggering amount of applications. Some college administrators also believe that fees ensure that they only receive applicants from students who are serious about enrolling.
An October 2017 article in US News reported that the average fee was $43, and the most common fee amount was $50.
Some schools, including many Ivy League schools and other highly ranked universities, charge $75 and up, however. Stanford is at the high end, with a $90 fee.
However, there are also top-ranked schools that have chosen to waive application fees. A Forbes round-up reported that military institutions such as West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy don’t charge a fee, as well as other top-ranked schools such as Wellesley College, Oberlin College and Carleton College.
The College Board website says most high school counselors recommend that students apply to five to eight colleges.
You can take this info and the most common fee amount – $50 – and put them together to get a ballpark idea of your application fee total. You’ll pay $250 in fees if you apply to five fee-charging colleges vs. $400 if you apply to eight. If you know you’re planning to apply to quite a few Ivy League universities or fee-waiving schools, your total will obviously skew higher or lower.
There’s a very quick path to an accurate picture of the money you will shell out to apply to your chosen schools: Just Google “[college name]” and “application fee.”
What if you can’t afford the fees?
Many college applications include a field where you can request a fee waiver based on your financial situation. The Common App also includes this option.
You can also fill out the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s waiver request form and send it in with your application.
You have to qualify for the waiver and your high school counselor has to verify that you have a financial need. Colleges are not required to waive fees, but they often do for students who qualify. (Waivers are also available for ACT and SAT fees; if you receive an SAT test fee waiver, you can also receive up to four college application fee waivers.)
See also: What is a College Application Fee Waiver and How Can You Get One?