6 Simple Ways to Save Money on Your College Applications


It’s no secret. Between tuition, room and board, and books, college costs add up. The expenses begin even as you’re applying to college, with test and application fees, and a few surprise costs in between. Find out how to save money when applying to college below.

1. Find out if you’re eligible for SAT/ACT fee waivers

Low income families might be able to use a fee waiver for the SAT/ACT tests. For example, for both ACT and the SAT fees, students who are enrolled in Upward Bound or another federally funded program are eligible for a fee waiver. Talk to your guidance counselor if you think you should be eligible. 

For the ACT, see this  list of eligibility requirements. If you are eligible, you can get up to two fee waivers for the ACT. 

On the other hand, for the SAT, you’re eligible if your family receives public assistance, you’re enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, and more. See full list of requirements on the College Board’s website. Once you get your 12-digit waiver code, you can register for the SAT online. See more details here


2. Use consolidated college app systems 

By using consolidated application systems while you’re applying to college, you could save on some fees. For example, the Common Black College Application allows you to apply to 53 schools for $35 total. 

Additionally, the Coalition App provides assistance. As you’re filling out the Coalition Application, you’ll be asked a set of questions regarding your eligibility for a fee waiver. According to the Coalition App, “Answering ‘yes’ to any one of these criteria is sufficient to make you eligible for the Coalition fee waiver.” 

3. Find out if you qualify for AP test waivers

For AP exams, the College Board determines eligibility based upon family income. Your school’s AP Coordinator will provide a list of students who are eligible to the College Board, which will then provide a $32 fee reduction to students who qualify. 


4. Save travel money with virtual tours

Many colleges offer virtual webinars and college tours. While going to campus is one of the most effective ways to picture yourself at a school, webinars and virtual tours can help you filter out a “definite no” from the “definite maybe,” saving you time and cost of travel. 

  • Take a look at your college’s admissions website to see if they offer online, virtual tours.

  • Try out eCampusTours, a website that allows you to search and view college tours online. 

  • Bonus: see if your guidance counselor or any friends/family know someone currently at the college. Talk to them, interview on phone or text and see how they like it. Your conversation can help you filter out which colleges feel like the right fit without having to step foot on campus 

5. Take advantage of free practice tests

Many students and their families can’t afford a tutor or study guide for ACT or SAT preparation. Practice tests give you more confidence as you’re taking a standardized test, and will hopefully limit the amount of times you have to retake the test--saving money and time in the long run. Take a look at our list of 8 Free Resources for ACT/SAT prep

6. Apply to a limited number of colleges

When you’re anxious about getting accepted to college, you’ll be tempted to apply to ten or more schools. Instead of applying to a bunch of schools, spend extra time researching schools that are the right fit for you. Whether you’ve started to narrow down your college list or you’re just starting out, here’s our guide to making your college list. 

Following these steps, you can be intentional throughout the college application process to save money wherever possible.