Fee waivers can reduce cost of college applications

Kylie Yamada, Entertainment Editor

College tuition is known to be expensive, but college applications can take a sizable bite out of a student’s wallet as well.

Many colleges and universities charge a fee for submitting an application. Colleges set their own fee depending on the number of applicants they receive and how selective the process is. The fee is intended to cover the costs of hiring admission officers and selecting students.

The average application fee in the United States is $41; however, the exact fee can vary depending on the college. Northern Arizona University charges $25; Stanford University charges $90.

The cost is one reason many colleges have eliminated application fees entirely, including Wellesley College and Kenyon College. Others, such as University of Chicago, eliminate the fee if the student is also applying for financial aid. It has also become a strategy of colleges to waive an application fee for extremely qualified potential applicants.

In addition, nearly all colleges in the United States require students to take either the SAT or ACT at least once, with some also mandating SAT II Subject Tests. The cost to register for the SAT or ACT is around $60, with potential late fees or higher costs if the student wishes to also take the essay portion of the exam.

After students register for an exam and receive their scores, they must also officially send a score report to the colleges that they are applying to. The ACT allows students to select four colleges at registration and up to 11 days after the test date which will be sent the student’s score free of charge. Students who wait until after the eleven days or who wish to send more colleges their scores, must pay $13 per score report. For the SAT, it’s $12.50 per score report.

For this reason, some colleges have also elected to allow students to only self-report scores, including University of Chicago and University of Iowa. Despite the seeming risks, a 2009 study conducted by Springer Science+Business Media found that students misrepresented their scores 20 percent of the time— in a controlled environment with no consequences for incorrect reporting. Regardless, the potential for exaggeration has kept colleges away from this possibility.

Some organizations have focused around planning students’ schedules around pragmatically ordering score reports at the most ideal times to allow for no fee, such as Bottom Line in New York, Illinois and Massachusetts.

However, some students have a way around the other costs as well.

“I’ve used fee waivers for two SATs, two SAT Subject Tests, two ACTs and price reductions on five AP exams,” senior Julian Bernado said. “Some mental math places [the savings] at around $800.”

The application to receive a fee waiver is similar to the application to receive free or reduced lunch. The exact income cutoff for a waiver varies depending on the number of family members living in the household, but is capped at $60,976 for six people.

There are several other eligibility possibilities for a fee waiver: being an orphan or ward of the state, living in publicly subsidized housing or a foster home and being homeless or being in a publicly-funded program which gives aid to low-income families such as Upward Bound.

Bear Creek students can receive forms for test waivers in the counseling office.