Applying to college is an expensive business. Applications cost money. It doesn’t make sense that you have to pay for the opportunity to spend tens of thousands of dollars, but application fees get more expensive every few years. While some are as low as $25, others cost $90 or more. As a student, that can severely limit your ability to apply to numerous schools. How do you choose where to apply when you can’t afford the application fees?

Setting your limits

The college board advises incoming freshmen to apply to a maximum of eight colleges. Between five to eight is the perfect number, and you may not even choose to apply to that many. Some students find that three colleges are sufficient.


Just remember that you need a hierarchy on your list. Apply to reach schools that you may not get into but would love to attend. Choose one or two schools where you know you’ll get accepted. A few fallback universities should round out your applications.

Assessing all of the fees

The application fee isn’t the only pre-college financial issue. At some universities, you have to pay testing fees, as well. Entrance exam fees present another possible cost. High school students have to pay to take the ACT and SAT, too. The results can go out to four schools for free, but after that, sending your scores costs extra.

Recent high school graduates shouldn’t have to pay to send their transcripts to their colleges of choice. Older students, however, will probably have to deal with a transcript fee. That goes double if you already have a degree and want to attend school again.

Skipping the charges

There are a couple of ways to take a pass on application fees. For starters, you can apply to schools that don’t charge the fee. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending hundreds of dollars to apply to college.

Displaying a need for financial aid is another option. Certain universities dismiss the fees for students who can’t afford them. It depends on the college, though, and the needs of the individual student.