Saving Money During the College Admission Process

The cost of college can be expensive. But, what about the college admission process? Students can pay thousands of dollars during their college prep! You have to pay for college applications, tests, and visiting colleges. Some students also pay for extra college admission help and test prep. The cost of just applying to college can be quite expensive and intimidating for students. Luckily, there are many ways to save during the college admission process.

College Counseling

Many students think they must use outside help to be admitted to their dream college. However, an independent educational consultant is not necessary when applying to college. They can help with the process, but if you don’t have the money for help, you don’t have to go into debt to get college counseling help.

  • Many school counselors have a lot of great knowledge about colleges and can provide guidance. School counselors can help with building your college list, submitting your application, proofreading your essays, and understanding your financial aid awards. The school counseling team may also provide free workshops on things related to the college admission process.
  • Do your own research when looking at colleges. If you need help finding colleges for your college list, use free tools such as College Board’s Big Future. You will be able to enter all of the things you are looking for a college, such as location and major, and it will produce a list of colleges that meet your requirements. You can then go to the different college websites to learn more about the colleges.
  • There are a lot of great resources that provide college admission information and advice. I provide a lot of information based on the knowledge I have from my time as a college admission professional. There are also a lot of great counselors and organizations that provide free information online.

Application Fees

Many colleges require an application fee to apply for admission and some are almost $100. Even applying to a handful of schools can really add up. But, there are ways to get the application fee waived.

  • Some colleges do not charge an application fee. While you should not apply to a college just because it does not have an application fee, it can be a real advantage if you really like the school offering no application fee. Some colleges never charge an application fee and others may send an email with a code to waive the application fee. Therefore, read your emails and letters you receive from college because they might just send you a fee waiver.
  • Some colleges will waive the application fee if you visit the college. However, you must make sure that you make the visit official to qualify for the application fee waiver.
  • Check with your school counselor to see if you qualify for a fee waiver. If you meet the qualifications, they may provide you with a fee waiver.
  • You can always ask the college if they will waive the application fee.


It costs money to take the SAT and ACT. If you want to submit your test scores to more colleges, you’ll have to pay extra. And, test prep can add to the cost of taking the test.

  • If you don’t have the extra money to pay for test prep, there are free resources available online. In addition, check with your school to see if they will be offering test prep for free or at a discounted rate.
  • Just like the fee waivers for college applications, you may qualify for a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT. Check with your school counselor to see if you qualify.
  • Do the colleges you are considering require test scores? Some colleges are now test optional and  do not require test scores for admission or financial aid. If the colleges does not need them, don’t include them on the list when choosing your free test reports. However, make sure you know the policies and procedures at the colleges when it comes to your test scores. And, if you ever have any questions, ask your admission counselor
  • Will the college accept the test score from another source? Some high schools include test scores on or with the official transcript. Check with your high school to see if this is something they will do when sending official transcripts to college. If the college will accept your test scores from your high school, you may not need to include them when choosing your free reports.

College Visits

A college visit is the best way to figure out if a college is a good fit for you. However, visiting the colleges you are considering can really add up. Luckily, there are ways to save money.

  • Many colleges offer some type of incentive to visit their campuses. Prospective students may be able to spend the night on campus for free. You might also get a free or discounted meal on campus during your official college visit. Some colleges offer fly-in programs or travel reimbursements. Some colleges offer visit scholarships for students who visit the colleges and ultimately choose to attend the institution. Check with the colleges you are considering to see if they offer any of these incentives and what you may need to do to qualify.
  • Check with your high school to see if they are making any college visits. Some high schools may visit local colleges, while others visit colleges farther away from home. These visits are sometimes free or will cost you a lot less than visiting on your own.

Financial Aid

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams that say they will give you a lot of financial aid for “a small fee.” In addition, there are services available that will help you with financial aid for a fee. However, applying for financial aid should be free!

  • The FAFSA is called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Free is in the name! You should never pay anything to submit your FAFSA. If you have questions about filling out the FAFSA< check with your high school to see if they know of any free FAFSA workshops in the area. You can also contact colleges you are considering to ask your questions.
  • While the FAFSA is free, some colleges require the CSS Profile. Just like college applications and the SAT and ACT, there are free waivers available for the CSS Profile. You will find out if you qualify for a fee waiver by filling out the CSS Profile.
  • You do not need to pay a fee to find scholarships. In addition to the scholarships available on my website, there are many creditable scholarship sites that are free to use, such as Fastweb and Cappex*.
  • If the scholarship requires an application fee, skip it! Never pay an application fee to submit a scholarship fee. It may be a scam if they are asking for an application fee.

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