The Common App has developed its own process through which students can seek fee waivers for colleges which use the Common App.
If you are eligible for, request, and receive a Common App fee waiver, you will not be charged an application fee by any of the colleges you apply to through the Common App system. As you can imagine, this can represent considerable savings for your family.
Common App fee waivers are intended for college applicants whose financial circumstances would pose a major barrier to applying to college. In order to receive a waiver, you’ll need to be able to show that you need it.
“You have received or are eligible to receive an ACT or SAT testing fee waiver.” SAT and ACT fee waivers are requested through your guidance counselor. You can check the SAT website or the ACT website for more information about who is eligible for those waivers.
“You are enrolled in or eligible to participate in the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) program.” Families apply to the FRPL program through their individual schools, and your school should be able to help you determine whether you are eligible.
“Your annual family income falls within the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.” The Income Eligibility Guidelines help determine who is eligible for the FRPL program. These guidelines change from year to year, and your school should be able to help you determine whether you fall within them. A chart of the guidelines is also included within this PDF provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).” If you’re not sure whether a program in which you are involved qualifies, the program’s website or the administrators of that program should be able to help you figure it out.
“Your family receives public assistance.” This could cover a number of different federal, state, and other assistance programs. If you’re not sure whether your family falls within this category, ask a parent or family member.
“You live in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home or are homeless.” If you’re not sure whether you live in federally subsidized public housing, ask a parent or family member. If you’re not sure how to categorize your housing situation, this overview of the official definitions of the word “homeless” may be helpful to you.
“You are a ward of the state or an orphan.” The exact definitions of the terms “ward of the state” and “orphan” vary by state and legal context, but if you fall into this category, you’re probably already aware of it. If you’re not sure, a family member, legal guardian, foster parent, or others may be able to provide more information — it really depends on your situation.
“You can provide a supporting statement from a school official, college access counselor, financial aid officer, or community leader.”
If one or more of these statements applies to you, you qualify to have your Common App fees waived. You’ll formally request that waiver during the process of filling out the Common App, as we’ll describe in the next section of this post.
When your application is processed, your guidance counselor will be asked to confirm your eligibility for a fee waiver. You’ll probably want to speak with your counselor ahead of time to make sure they understand your financial situation and are prepared to support your request.
If I’m eligible, how do I request and receive a Common App fee waiver?
When you log into your Common App account, you will first be directed to your Dashboard.
Clicking on the tab that says “Common App” will bring you to your actual application.
In order to access the fee waiver request form, click on “Profile” in the left-hand column.
Go the section where it says Common App Fee Waiver.” Click on that!
The application will ask you whether you wish to request a fee waiver. Specifically, it will ask, “Our member colleges want to make sure that application fees do not pose a barrier for any student who wishes to apply for admission. Do you feel that your financial circumstances might qualify you for an application fee waiver?” Click “yes” to answer this question.
After that, you’ll be asked to check off the reason(s) why you are eligible for a waiver from the list of eligibility conditions we mentioned earlier. Check all the boxes that apply to your situation. Finally, you’ll then be asked to type your name as a signature to certify that you “understand and meet the eligibility requirements” and know that your counselor may be required to submit a supporting statement on your behalf.