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  • The average college application fee is nearly $45 but can vary depending on the school and program.
  • The good news is that there are ways to save on everything from ACT® and SAT® exams to college visits.
  • If you qualify for a fee waiver, it could eliminate some college application fees.

We all know college costs add up quickly, including many school-related expenses that come up well before you receive an acceptance letter or a tuition bill. The application process itself may include college application fees, testing costs, and expenses related to visiting schools. Knowing about these costs in advance can help you prepare and budget for them so that you aren’t blindsided. 

How much are application fees for college?

College application fees vary depending on the school and type of program. Among the hundreds of ranked colleges that submitted data to US News and World Report, the average application fee in 2022 was almost $45. However, there are schools that charge anywhere from $75 to $100.

One bright spot is that some colleges don’t charge application fees at all. You might also avoid an application fee if you apply to an in-state school during a free application period—so check with your state to see if that’s an option. For example, Colorado offers residents a three-day free application period in October. 

Some schools may require applicants to complete the CSS Profile® to be eligible for non-federal student aid, such as institutional grants. There's a $25 fee for the initial application to one school or scholarship program, and $16 for each additional submission.

College admissions test costs

While standardized tests like the ACT and SAT exams are now optional for many college applications, some schools still require them. You may choose to take them if you think it could strengthen your application for test-optional schools. If you do take these tests, here’s what it will cost you.

  • Test preparation: You can study for the ACT and SAT exams on your own using online guides and practice tests. Some students also choose to enroll in test-prep courses or hire tutors, which have a wide range of pricing.
  • ACT exam: Taking the ACT with no writing section costs $68, but you’ll pay a total of $93 if you choose to take it with the writing portion. You can send up to four reports to schools for free and then it’s an additional $18.50 per school after that.
  • SAT exam: You’ll pay $60 to register for the SAT exam. The College Board®, which administers the test, will send four score reports to schools for free if you make the request within nine days of taking the test. There's a $14 fee per score report after the fourth one, and for any reports you request after the nine-day period ends.

Travel expenses

In-person college visits can help you get a feel for what life will be like on campus. It also gives you the opportunity to talk to current students and get their first-hand impressions. But if you visit every school you apply to, the associated costs—like flights, gas, meals out, and hotel rooms—can add up quickly. Here are some potential ways to save:

Transcript fees

Your high school grades play a large role in your college applications. Check each school’s application requirements to see if they need your official transcript. If so, you can contact your high school counselor and request that they send your official transcript directly to the colleges you’re applying to on your behalf. They may do this at no cost or charge a small fee usually between $5 and $10 per copy. After graduating high school, you’ll likely have to submit your final transcript to your college so be sure to stay focused senior year.

AP® test costs

Taking Advanced Placement® (AP) classes in high school may allow you to earn college credits before you graduate. AP exams are administered in May, giving you the chance to demonstrate your understanding of the coursework and earn college credit. Depending on your scores, this can help shorten your time in college and get your degree faster—saving you time and money. 

The AP exam fee for 2024 is $98 per test. While AP exams aren’t a required part of the college application process, these fees can add up fast if you’re taking multiple AP classes. After taking the exams, make sure to request your official AP score report be sent to your school to get college credit. Your first score report is free if you submit the request before the deadline, but late or additional reports will cost you $15 each.

How to save on college prep fees

1. Strategize sending score reports

You could save money by preparing for the college application process in advance. With the ACT and SAT exams, for example, proper planning can help you avoid late registration fees and get the most out of your four free score reports. Contact any in-state schools you're applying to and see if they belong to a statewide school system. If so, you might only need to send your scores to one school—then your scores will be automatically distributed for free to other schools within the system.

2. Apply for waivers

To save money on college application fees, see if you qualify for fee waivers. For example, some colleges provide waivers to first-generation college students or students who apply during certain enrollment events. Contact your school’s admissions office to see if there are any application fee waivers available. There are also waivers that cover ACT and SAT exam fees for low-income families. 

3. Visit schools virtually

Many schools offer virtual visits, including live or pre-recorded virtual tours, Q&A sessions, and informational videos. If you have your heart set on visiting in person, you can always start with virtual trips and then visit your top schools in person once you’ve received your acceptance letters.

ACT® is a trademark registered by ACT, Inc., which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse this site.

College Board®, SAT®, and CSS Profile™ are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse this site.

AP® and Advanced Placement® are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this site.

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