The Costs of Applying (and How to Avoid Them)

The Costs of Applying (and How to Avoid Them)

Conversations about the cost of college usually begin and end with the big numbers: tuition, room and board, activities fees, and all the other items that will appear on your term bill. But between sending test scores and application fees, the costs can add up even before you’re accepted to a school. Luckily, a little bit of research and some time with your guidance counselor can help you work around these fees—or get rid of them altogether.

Cost Breakdown

The application: According to U.S. News, the national average cost of applying to colleges for the Class of 2017 was $38.39 per application, though some schools charged applicants up to $90.The application fee is usually listed with the application or on the school’s admissions website.

SAT: The SAT allows students to send four free score reports during registration, but oftentimes that’s not enough. Additional score reports cost $11.25, and there is no limit on the number that can be sent.

ACT: You have several options of how to send your ACT scores: an additional report will set you back $12.00, while priority reports, which are delivered faster, cost $16.00.

Advanced Placement: You can choose a recipient for your score report when registering for test, but chances are you hadn’t yet finalized your college application list at the end of junior year. Additional reports are $15 each when ordered online, and if you’re in a hurry, you can add rush processing for $25 per report.


While the fees needed to put together an application can seem daunting, several programs are available to help defray these costs. The National Association of College Admissions Counseling grants applicants with demonstrated financial need up to four application waivers. (Find more information and the application here.) Similarly, the College Board’s waiver program for students with financial need offers a waiver for the cost of two SATs, two SAT Subject Tests, sending score reports, and up to four application fees. (Find eligibility requirements and more details here and the directory of participating schools here).

Even if you don’t qualify for these waiver programs, be sure to research your options. Take your master list of schools and look into each one’s costs and any possible waivers; some schools even waive the fee if you apply online or on campus rather than send in a paper application. If you’re a senior taking the SAT or subject tests in the fall, take advantage of the four free score reports. Finally, your guidance counselor may know of other waiver programs or schools with lower application costs—take advantage of their knowledge during your application process.

Overall, these fees for applications and sending test scores shouldn’t deter you from applying to your dream school. Like other stages of the college application process, make it work for you.

Admissions FeatureAdmissions Blog