It’s finally time to start applying to college! You have everything you need to start-transcripts, personal essays, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), personal information, and video submissions. Once you begin submitting all the needed documents, you are stopped by a page asking for your banking information or a credit card. Colleges often charge you to apply to their programs. College application fees can vary, anywhere from $10 to $100, depending on where you apply. Though this may not seem like a lot, these fees start to add up if you apply to multiple programs and colleges. Not to mention, you have likely already paid to take the ACT or SAT, courses to take those tests, and trips to those colleges. All the fees can intimidate a student from a low-income family, but these costs do not have to be a barrier to access. Many colleges offer waived fees to students for low-income families, and colleges often offer deals through emails and at certain times of the year.
It could be possible that the college you are applying to does not have an application fee, but this is rarely the case. If the application does have a fee, your first step to dealing with those fees is to check the emails you provided on the ACT or SAT. This might seem insane or not useful, but it could be important if you do not have a particular college in mind you want to go to desperately. If you opted in for colleges to contact you while taking standardized tests for college admissions, you likely have been bombarded with emails asking you to apply or visit colleges across the country. You might not realize that they might have sent you emails with a waived application fee. They either provide you with a code to redeem, or you can follow the link to the application they linked within the email. Though you might not think you want to apply to that college, it could surprise you. They might have the program you have dreamed of and never considered, and it might come with a nice financial aid package. It does not hurt to apply if the application is free.
The second step is to see if the college has an option for waiving application fees within the application itself. There is often a drop-down option towards the end of the application for programs you may have been a part of in high school. For example, if you are a National Merit Scholar, it could be an option for you to click that you are a part of a special group of students. If you are a student-athlete, a school might recruit you, and you will not have to pay an application fee. There are many organizations and circumstances for you to get your application fee waived, some that you may not have realized were an option.
You might be frustrated at this point that you are not a part of any organization or circumstance that is above. You might even think you cannot apply to college because you cannot afford the application fee. Fear not; there are options for you. On the drop-down menu, there is often an option for need-based applicants. You might have to provide evidence of the need on the application through your FAFSA, tax returns, or check stubs. If the option is unavailable on the application, do not lose hope. As a last resort, you can email that school’s admissions office and explain your need for a waived application fee. You might also want to explain why you want to apply to that school. Often, college admissions offices are human, too, and will recognize your need for the waived application fee. You just have to ask. The worst that could happen is they say no, and you have to pay the application fee.
Fees should not stop you from applying to college. You might think asking for a waived application fee is embarrassing, but it is not uncommon to ask for the waived fee to be granted. Colleges might even be so impressed that you asked because that means you are seriously considering going there. There are lots of federal aid for education for a reason. It is there for you to use and request if you need it. Education is of the utmost importance for you and your future. Do not let money stop you from getting a college education.