Top Colleges With No Application Fees

Avoid paying a college application fee by applying to these top colleges.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

November 09, 2023

Top Colleges With No Application Fees
Why pay to apply? Some colleges allow students to apply for free.
Nowadays, it’s not only expensive to go to college; it can also cost a lot to apply. College applications have increased in cost. In fact, the average college application fee at four-year, non-profit colleges is about $50, according to Some college application fees are upwards of $80! And, for students with limited funds, it can be financially cumbersome to apply to several schools. After all, $50 spent on an application is $50 that could go towards paying for tuition. With that, students should consider applying to colleges that do not have application fees. The good news is that there are plenty of institutions that recognize that the application fee costs are expensive and no longer charge fees for their applications. Many colleges may even have a declared application fee but will waive the charge for students who apply online, usually utilizing the Common Application.
The Common Application is available at more than 1,000 colleges and universities. It allows students applying to college to fill out and submit one application for multiple schools. Students can even apply for a Common Application fee waiver. According to the Common Application website, "If you feel that your financial circumstances might qualify you for an application fee waiver, you can request a fee waiver in the Common Application Fee Waiver section in the Profile section."
Using list from Niche, we’ve curated a list of the top 33 colleges that don’t have application fees.

Colleges with No Application Fees

  1. Wellesley College – Wellesley, Massachusetts
  2. Tulane University – New Orleans, Louisiana
  3. Macalester College – Saint Paul, Minnesota
  4. Trinity University – San Antonio, Texas
  5. Colby College – Waterville, Maine
  6. Carleton College – Northfield, Minnesota
  7. Grinnell College – Grinnell, Iowa
  8. Smith College – Northampton, Massachusetts
  9. National University - La Jolla, California
  10. Colorado College – Colorado Springs, Colorado
  11. Reed College – Portland, Oregon
  12. Michigan Technological University – Houghton, Michigan
  13. Kenyon College – Gambier, Ohio
  14. Mount Holyoke College – South Hadley, Massachusetts
  15. University of Dayton – Dayton, Ohio
  16. Wheaton College – Wheaton, Illinois
  17. Bryn Mawr College - Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
  18. Wabash College – Crawfordsville, Indiana
  19. New Mexico Tech – Socorro, New Mexico
  20. St. Olaf College – Northfield, Minnesota
  21. Furman University - Greenville, South Carolina
  22. Hendrix College - Conway, Arkansas
  23. Worcester Polytechnic University – Worcester, Massachusetts
  24. Biola University - La Mirada, California
  25. Eastern New Mexico University - Portalas, New Mexico
  26. Florida Institute of Technology - Melbourne, Florida
  27. Denison University – Granville, Ohio
  28. Illinois Wesleyan University - Bloomington, Illinois
  29. Saint Louis University – St. Louis, Missouri
  30. Creighton University – Omaha, Nebraska
  31. Dickinson College - Carlisle, Pennsylvania
  32. University of St. Thomas – Saint Paul, Minnesota
  33. St. Catherine University - Saint Paul, Minnesota
It’s also important to know that some colleges waive application fees for: • Low-Income Students • First-Generation Students • Minority Students • Veterans, Active-Duty Military Members or Children of Military Members If the college you’re interested in is not listed above, check with the admissions office to see if they have application fee waivers.

Applying to Colleges

College application season can feel long and strenuous. Between college visits, essays and admission interviews, there is so much to be done. However, there are ways to make the process easier. First, start college visits early. Don’t wait until senior year to begin visiting schools. You can start as early as a freshman in high school; however, it will help your decision-making process more to begin visiting colleges during junior year of high school. You will have a better idea of what you’re looking for and which of your passions from high school you’ll be able to pursue. Keep a journal in order to record each of your college visits. Write down questions which you have for the tour guide or admission officer. Get your answers while you’re on campus. After you leave, write down the things you loved about the school – and things you didn't like. Having these notes to reference back to when its application time will be helpful. During the spring semester of junior year, take the SAT or ACT if you haven’t yet done so. If you’re not happy with your results, this will give you plenty of time to retake the test over the summer or during fall semester of senior year. Over the summer, make a list of the schools you plan to apply to, and start doing your research. Check whether you must pay an application fee as well as if the schools you plan to apply to are covered under the Common Application. Check out college application deadlines and figure out if you plan to apply Early Decision to any of the schools on your list (if you apply early decision, it means that you are committed to attending that school as soon as your application is accepted for admission). This is also a good time to see what you need for each application. Some schools require essays and letters of recommendation in addition to test scores and transcripts. If you’re filling out the Common Application, some schools may require a supplemental application that includes short essays so that the school can get to know you better. Finally, consider doing an admissions interview at the colleges you’re especially interested in attending. An admissions interview will enable the officer reviewing your application to put a face with the name he or she sees. It will also help you to get a more personal, in-depth look into the university and how you would fit in there.

States Offering Free Application Periods

This year, many states are waiving application fees during select periods as part of the American College Application Campaign (ACAC). While this benefits all students, it’s especially geared toward first-generation or low-income students who may not be able to afford the college application fees. Designated free application periods differ by state. This year, over 25 states are participating, and each has designated which colleges in the state students can apply to for free. Most states are also offering free financial aid workshops to help students and their families maximize their chances of qualifying for free financial aid. To qualify for financial aid, families must complete the FAFSA, which will become available December 2023. Applying to colleges doesn’t have to be all that stressful. With a little preparation and planning, you can stay on top of college visits, application components and deadlines. You’ll also be up to speed on which schools require an application fee and which do not. What’s more important, though, is that being organized in your college search will lead you to make the decision that is best for you. With hundreds of colleges to choose from, making that final decision can be easy, stress-free, and right on the money.

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