How to Make Applying for College More Affordable

By Colette Gordon Many students consider the costs of tuition and fees for college, but most fail to think about the cost to apply. In 2015, the average college application fee was $41 based on the 1,068 ranked colleges that reported data to U.S. News. Among the 1,068 schools, the most common application fee was $50. If most students are applying to 6-8 colleges, they will end up having to spend hundreds of dollars in application fees. Luckily, there are many ways that students can avoid paying application fees: 1. Some colleges, like Colby College, have no application fee for any applicant. 2. Some colleges, like The University of Chicago, waive the application fee for any applicant applying for financial aid. 3. Some colleges provide fee waivers to students who visit or even to those who ask. Walter Payton senior Cindy Mei explained, “As for application waivers, I have had college admissions officers tell me that their colleges (and most colleges) don’t really care about the application fee and they would waive the fee if the student just reached out to the school.” 4. Students who qualify to apply for college throughQuestbridge partners will have all fees waived. 5. Students applying to colleges via the Common Application can apply to have all of their fees waived with proof of financial need. Students applying to non-Common Application schools can also request fee waivers for financial need. However, many students run into the problem of paying to send their test scores. Cindy Mei summarized the struggle by sharing, “I have friends who find financial hardship paying to send their scores to colleges and will spend hundreds of dollars to do so because they have multiple schools and scores to send.” Students can try to reduce the cost of sending test scores by: • Using the free score reports provided by testing agencies. • Checking to see if colleges accept self-reported scores or downloadable score reports at the time of application and only request official scores if a student chooses to enroll there. • Seeking flexible scholarships that can be used to send scores. One unique opportunity that many Chicago students are eligible to participate in is Chicago Scholars. Chicago Scholars’ Senior Associate of College Access Kenneth Woodard explained that Chicago Scholars makes the process more affordable by offering an onsite event every application cycle, requiring colleges that offer onsite admissions decisions to use the test scores provided by Chicago Scholars so that students don’t have to pay to send their own, and providing NACAC fee waivers to every student in the program so they don’t have to pay any application fees. If you are a current junior and you are eligible to apply for Chicago Scholars, the application for the Class of 2022 is open now and can be found on the Chicago Scholars website. Good luck students!

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