The value of a college degree is undisputed. A 2010 report from the College Board estimates that, among full-time workers, high school graduates earned a median annual income of $33,800; workers with an associate’s degree, $42,000; and, workers with a bachelor’s degree, $55,700.

Chapter 3 | Fee Waivers

The information included on this webpage was excerpted from Chapter 3 of College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers, available in its entirety at

college application fee

exam thought bubbleChapter 3, Part 4 | College Application Fee Waivers
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College Application Fees: The Basics

The college application process would not be complete without the submission of the college application itself. A complete college application usually consists of some or all of the following:

  • a completed application form,
  • a high school transcript,
  • college admission exam scores,
  • letters of recommendation,
  • essays, and
  • application fees.

While not all U.S. colleges charge application fees, many do, with an estimated average fee of between $35 and $50. Fortunately, there are a number of options available to students to either eliminate the expense of college application fees completely or reduce them significantly, including:

  • fee waivers available using the College Board’s or National Association for College Admission Counseling’s fee waiver form,
  • fee waivers available at individual institutions of higher education, and
  • reduced or $0 application fees available by applying to college online.

The College Board College Application Fee Waiver

The College Board, in addition to administering AP and SAT programs, provides eligible students with up to four Request for Waiver of College Application Fee forms. The College Board uses the same eligibility criteria for its SAT college entrance exam fee waiver and college application fee waiver programs. As previously stated:

  • Students participating in or eligible to participate in the Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch program automatically qualify for the SAT College Entrance Exam fee waiver.
  • According to the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, children and youth experiencing homelessness are categorically eligible to receive free school meals.

As such, homeless students, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, meet the eligibility criteria for the College Board's college application fee waiver program. Students should include these forms, which are shipped with the SAT Program fee waiver materials to high schools during the summer, with their college applications and send them to institutions listed in the SAT Fee-Waiver Directory of Colleges.

The NACAC College Application Fee Waiver

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)an organization of professionals dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education, provides a college application fee waiver form that is accepted widely by postsecondary institutions across the country. NACAC uses the same indicators of economic need as those used by the College Board’s SAT college entrance exam fee waiver and college application fee waiver programs. In fact, students who have received or are eligible to receive an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver automatically qualify to use the NACAC college application fee waiver form. For more information, please visit

Additional Options for Covering College Application Fees

The Common Application and College Application Fee Waivers

The Common Application for Undergraduate College Admissions provides free online and print versions of first-year and transfer college applications that are accepted by more than 400 U.S. postsecondary institutions. Beginning in 2011-2012, all Common Application member institutions agreed to accept both the NACAC and College Board fee waiver forms. For more information about the Common Application, including a list of member institutions, visit

Individual Institutional Policy

Although many colleges accept either the College Board or NACAC college application fee waiver form, some institutions of higher education choose to establish their own individual policies. It is recommended that college-bound students research the policies of colleges where they are applying to learn about available options. Professionals working with college-bound students may wish to research the issue, as well, so as to have ready access to information about application fee waiver options at institutions that are popular with the students with whom they work. Additionally, many colleges do not charge an application fee when students complete the application online.

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