Cutting Costs in the College Search and Application Process

If you’re unsure how you’ll pay for the costs associated with the college search and application process, you’re not alone! Thankfully, there are ways to help offset these costs. We’ve highlighted some areas where you’ll see fees and some resources that will help offset the costs. Some of these resources can be utilized by all students regardless of family income level, and others are only for families demonstrating a certain level of financial need. 

Test Prep

If you want to earn a high SAT and/or ACT score, you’ll need to prep for these tests. Unfortunately, many test prep programs come with a hefty price tag. If you’re taking the SAT, a great free resource for all students is Khan Academy. For the ACT, we recommend ACT’s free resources!


Essays are another huge component of your college application. The good news is you probably have free resources available already! If you’re looking for people to review your essays, your English teacher or an older friend who was admitted to their dream school are both great resources. Remember to be respectful of their time and give them a draft of your essay well before the due date.

Test Fee Waivers

The ACT and SAT both cost money. However, you may qualify for fee waivers based on your family’s income. Here is more information about ACT and SAT test waivers.

Application Fees

Application fees can get expensive, especially if you’re applying to many schools. These fees typically range from $25-$90 per application. Colleges want to ensure the application fee doesn’t stop you from applying, so there are several ways to have your application fee potentially waived.

  1. If you qualify for the SAT fee waiver, you also qualify for four application fee waivers (at participating colleges).
  2. If you qualify for the ACT fee waiver, your counselor can fill out the application fee waiver request form on your behalf and submit it to the colleges you are applying to. It is at the discretion of each college to approve the fee waiver.
  3. If you are applying through the Common App, here is more information on waiving application fees.
  4. Some college admissions counselors have a limited number of fee waivers they can give out at their discretion. There is no harm in politely asking for a fee waiver, although you must be able to explain why you need the waiver. Even though your request may not be granted, there’s no harm in asking.

Campus Visit Vouchers/Fly-In Programs

An in-person campus visit will help you decide which school best fits you. Some schools offer campus visit vouchers and fly-in programs to help reduce these costs. These programs are typically reserved for admitted students and usually only cover a portion of the costs associated with your campus visit.

Even if a college doesn’t offer these programs, there are ways to visit at a low cost. See if there is an admitted student event that offers free on-campus lodging. You won’t have to pay for a place to stay, and you get to experience dorm living. Talk to your friends and see if they want to visit the same campuses. You can split the costs and take a fun road trip!

Don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA (each year you are in college) and apply for scholarships. There are lots of ways to save money on college applications and visits. Don’t let the costs associated with college be a deterrent to pursuing your college dreams!