You can spend a lot of money on postsecondary education. There are costs like tuition, meal plans, lodging, school supplies, and more. But these aren’t the only fees students and their parents have to consider.

You may also like: Top Online Colleges With No Application Fee.

Why Do Colleges Have Application Fees?

With many schools, you need to pay a fee when applying. In fact, college application fees are common. But many students are surprised to learn about them. College officials say the fees for college access are essential.

It may seem unfair, but application fees for colleges and universities are the norm.  So you will need to consider this cost when researching the colleges you want to attend.

How much are college application fees? Why Are There College Application Fees? Where do your payments go? Is there a way around them? And why is it necessary in today’s modern age where colleges are more apt to use online applications? Can I get a fee waiver? We’ve written this article to help you understand more about college application fees.

Related: 5 Budgeting Tips for College Students

What Are College Application Fees Used For?

As college admissions deadlines approach, the admissions office can be very chaotic. The applications submitted to a college do not review themselves. Even with electronic verification systems, human admissions specialists are still necessary.

Many students ask, “Why do you have to pay to apply to colleges?”, “Why do colleges charge application fees?” and “Why are application fees so expensive?” Fees cover the cost of the selection and admission process. Looking over applications costs the university money. They need to pay an employee to review each one, and this cost is passed on to the student. Unless, of course, you qualify for a fee waiver. This is why college applications cost money.

Do All Colleges Charge Application Fees?

Some prestigious schools charge application fees to ensure that students are serious about attending. Without a fee, some students would submit hundreds of applications. This seems logical. After all, the goal would be to get accepted to the best school. Yet it is important to remember that colleges are businesses. And the expenses can be high just like any other business.

Some schools offer a fee waiver. Other colleges credit the application fee towards your tuition. There are also some schools that refund the application fee for college if you are not accepted. Check with the school’s admissions office to see what happens after you pay.

Related: 5 Degrees That Offer a High Return on Investment

Do All Colleges Charge Application Fees?

Not all colleges charge fees. Some of the most selective schools (like Stanford and Duke) charge high fees. Yet some prestigious small colleges charge no fees at all. Online colleges, Christian schools, and liberal arts schools often don’t charge these fees. Others offer students a fee waiver.

Schools that do not charge application fees are often demonstrating inclusiveness. They want to encourage everyone to apply. Thus, anyone can go through the admissions process. If this is essential to you, be sure to research which colleges have no fees to apply.

How Much Can You Expect To Pay in Application Fees?

What are college application fees?

Colleges set their fees based on how many applications they receive. And they are also based on how selective the admissions process is. So be sure to make a comparison because the costs can add up if you are applying to a handful of colleges at any given time. It can be helpful if at least a few of them offer students a fee waiver.

According to US News & World Report out of 889 ranked colleges, the average application fee was $45. The highest application fee in 2022 was $100 at Arkansas Baptist College. Stanford University had a $90 fee, while Duke’s fee was $85. The majority of more prominent universities had $75 application fees.

This indicates that the average fee can range anywhere from $45 to $100. but don’t fret just yet. There are a few tips and tricks to help with that cost.

What Is an Application Fee Waiver?

Before you are scared off by all the fees, you will want to learn about college application fee waivers. Thankfully, many schools offer fee waivers. Even Ivy League schools like Harvard University provide fee waivers. You can usually find more information on application fee waivers through a school’s financial aid department.

Find out first if you are eligible for a college application fee waiver. That way, you can avoid paying an unnecessary application fee. There is another handy tip as well. If you got an SAT fee waiver, you will automatically qualify for a fee waiver for eligible schools.

College Board has an excellent list of more than 2000 of these schools. For more information about the sat fee waiver program consult the college board website as well.

Since applying to college is a big expense, it is vital to get financially ready for the process. Make sure to set aside money for application fees. That way, you won’t be limited on where you can apply. Make a note of each school’s applications fees. Then, contact the college admissions office with your questions. If you qualify for fee waivers, you’ll have that much more for other expenses.

Related: How Can I Find Financial Aid for Online College?

Are There Other Ways To Avoid Paying College Application Fees?

Ways to avoid college application fees

Luckily, if you can’t afford college application fees, you still have some options. 

Apply Early
Schedule a Campus Visit
Apply Online
Prove You Can’t Afford it

Apply Early

One way to skip the fees is to apply early. Many schools prefer early applications. That is because it gives them more time to process them. As a result, they will often waive fees for prospective students who apply early. This is typically not true for prestigious colleges, but many smaller schools do so.

Schedule a Campus Visit

Another way to skip application fees is to visit the campus. It’s not uncommon for schools to waive the fees if you arrange (and attend) a campus visit day. Of course, it’s better to arrange this through the school than to just show up. So make sure to ask admissions if they offer a fee waiver when you call to set up your visit day. If you arent sure how to do this, reach out to your high school guidance counselor. They can usually help you set up something like this.

Apply Online

Sometimes, can get your fee waived if you apply online. Naturally, this isn’t true in all cases. But most colleges and universities prefer it over a mail-in application. The automated forms make it easier to read and the application is simpler to process. Check out the school’s online application pages to see if they offer college application fee waivers.

Prove You Can’t Afford it

Another common way to skip the application fee is to prove financial hardship. Most institutions will waive your application fee if you meet specific financial guidelines. If you are struggling financially, don’t let it stop you from getting a college education. Many students are in the same boat. So contact the school’s financial aid office to see what programs are available. They will usually have you fill out a statement of financial need.

Application Fee-Free Colleges

College Application Fees

Perhaps the best way to guarantee no application fee is to find colleges without them. Some of these schools are smaller or affiliated with a church or religion. However, they understand that too many fees can be a hardship for some students.

Next up, we’ve found three excellent schools that dont charge any application fees.

Schools With No Application Fees

Maryvale University

Maryville University Application Fees

St. Louis, Missouri

Maryville University is a private college just outside of St. Louis. Maryvale does not require students to pay application fees for any of the school’s degree programs. This makes college access that much easier for students struggling to pay the bills.

Maryville’s full-time tuition is $24,766, not including fees, housing, or meals. But at least 93% of students at this school receive some form of assistance. If you want to attend Maryville but can’t afford it, be sure to check out all of the school’s financial aid programs.

Maryville University students can choose from dozens of on-campus majors. Plus, they offer over 30 online degree programs in areas like:

  • Business
  • Communications
  • Healthcare
  • Human Services
  • Liberal Arts
  • Social Sciences
  • Nursing

Maryville is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Application Fees

Chicago Illinois

Loyola University is a Jesuit Catholic University in Chicago. However, students of all backgrounds and faiths attend this popular college. At Loyola, students receive a solid liberal arts education that focuses on the whole person. They also participate in volunteer service projects like:

  • Neighborhood cleanups
  • Tutoring younger students
  • Working at the student-run farmers’ market
  • Volunteering with nonprofit human-rights organizations

This spirit of giving spills into the costs of attending Loyola, too. The school does not require any application or transcript fees. And the application process is easy with the school’s rolling deadlines. Full-time tuition is around $24,000 a year. But many students qualify for assistance. You can contact Loyola’s financial aid department for more information.

Loyola is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Norwich University

Norwich University Application Fees

Northfield, Vermont

Norwich University is the oldest private military college in the country. Many people are surprised to learn this school is the birthplace of ROTC. Norwich is best known for its Corps of Cadets. But you don’t need to be in the military to attend. Located in Vermont, the school has a small student body of around 2300. And it is entirely free to apply.

Some of the most popular majors at Norwich include:

  • Nursing
  • Data Analytics
  • Cyber Security
  • Criminal Justice
  • Architecture
  • Education

Tuition at Norwich is around $59,796. But over 95 percent of the school’s students also get some form of assistance. In fact, the students can take advantage of $130 million in financial aid from various sources.

NU is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Related: 5 Tips for Earning an Online Degree While in the Military