Nowadays, it’s not only expensive to go to college; it’s also expensive to apply. College applications have increased in cost – some of them are upwards of $80!
And, for students with limited funds, it can be financially cumbersome to apply to several schools. After all, $80 spent on an application is $80 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
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Just an aside, the Common Application is available at over 900 institutions. 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."
Niche publishes a best colleges list, which includes the top colleges without application fees. According to Niche, “The 2021 Best Colleges with No Application Fee ranking filters the 2020 Best Colleges ranking to only include colleges with free applications. Note that additional colleges waive application fees for low-income, minority, veteran, and other student types so be sure to check each school's website.”
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You can learn more about the methodology of Niche’s best colleges lists here. Here are 33 of Niche’s top colleges with no application fees
1. Carleton College – Northfield, Minnesota
2. United States Military Academy – West Point, New York
3. Colby College – Waterville, Maine
4. Wellesley College – Wellesley, Massachusetts
5. Macalester College – Saint Paul, Minnesota
6. Tulane University – New Orleans, Louisiana
7. Grinnell College – Grinnell, Iowa
8. Smith College – Northampton, Massachusetts
9. Kenyon College – Gambier, Ohio
10. Reed College – Portland, Oregon
11. St. Olaf College – Northfield, Minnesota
12. Colorado College – Colorado Springs, Colorado
13. Michigan Technological University – Houghton, Michigan
14. Saint Louis University – St. Louis, Missouri
15. Denison University – Granville, Ohio
16. Rhodes College – Memphis, Tennessee
17. Sewanee, The University of the South – Sewanee, Tennessee
18. University of Dayton – Dayton, Ohio
19. Hendrix College – Conway, Arkansas
20. Milwaukee School of Engineering – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
21. Gustavus Adolphus College – Saint Peter, Minnesota
22. United States Merchant Marine Academy – Kings Point, New York
23. University of St. Thomas, Minnesota – Saint Paul, Minnesota
24. Drake University – Des Moines, Iowa
25. Oberlin College – Oberlin, Ohio
26. Augustana University – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
27. LeTourneau University – Longview, Texas
28. Hope College – Holland, Michigan
29. Lawrence University – Appleton, Wisconsin
30. Lewis & Clark College – Portland, Oregon
31. Marquette University – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
32. College of Wooster – Wooster, Ohio
33. Missouri University of Science & Technology – Rolla, Missouri
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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 it’s 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 or not 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 particular 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 there.
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 actually lead you to making 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.