I’ve updated the list of colleges with no application fees based on the Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and information from the Common Application. The IPEDS data is the fee charged for the previous academic year while the Common Application Data is for the 2022-23 year. Yes, it’s very possible the data reported by IPEDS will not be valid for the coming year. But it’s what is available.
College Application Fees can be Expensive!
Everyone knows the cost of higher education is spiraling out of control. Did you know that just the cost to apply to college has reached equally outrageous levels? Applying to US News 2022-23 Top Ten (there are actually 11 top 10 because of a tie) National Universities would set you back $845 in application fees with a low of $70 to a high of $90. Only two schools charged less than $75. That doesn’t include the cost of sending in test score reports.
Download the No Application Fee Colleges List
Just how bad is the situation? Consider the following:
- There are 465 colleges, down from 489 the previous year, that charge $50 or more to apply to college, over half of them are public institutions. It looks like the decline that began under COVID has continued for this category.
- Unfortunately, this drop didn’t happen at the higher end of the fee scale. The number of colleges charging $70 or more continues to creep up with 144, two more than the previous year. Public schools held steady in this category at 79. Around half of these colleges are in just two states: California (32) and Texas (11).
- Twelve states, including the District of Columbia, had an average application fee of $50 or more for public institutions.
- The percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants at private colleges that charged $70 or more to apply was still stuck at the previous year’s 18%. Those that charged less remain the same as well at 38%. It looks like the hit poor students took under COVID continues.
The interesting thing is that the test services have actually expanded the fee waiver benefits. Both the ACT and SAT allow for free unlimited score reports to colleges (probably since so many colleges are allowing students to self-report scores). In fact, if you qualify for a fee waiver from the SAT, most colleges are now waiving their application fees. Yet, the most elite schools in the country still can’t attract lower income students. You can’t help but think it’s just easier to admit partial pay (merit or need) than full need students.
Colleges with No Application Fees
Still, for those who don’t qualify for a fee waiver, $70 a pop adds up. So what’s a frugal student to do? There are at least 653 colleges with 500 or more full-time undergraduates that have no application fees, an increase from 616 in 2021. This means that they did not have an application fee for the 2021-22 school year or will waive them if you apply online through the Common Application. Once again there are more colleges with free application fees than those with fees over $50, 465 a decrease from the previous year’s 489.
Furthermore, 285 (up from 274 from last year) have graduation rates of 50% or greater. (Download the complete 50-50 list for free.) I use the four-year rate for private colleges and the five-year rate for public institutions. And the test optional trend is only accelerating with 811 colleges where tests are “Considered but not required” and 386 have no application fees.
A total of 93 colleges with free application fees have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. The list includes 116 Liberal Arts Colleges along with 127 Doctoral Universities with 29 having at least “high” research activity. Not surprising, the vast majority (600) had 5,000 or fewer full-time undergraduates. Only 39 were in the “Goldilocks” range between 5,000 and 10,000 while a mere 14 fell into the greater than 10,000 category.
As mentioned earlier, The College Board also lists colleges that will consider fee waivers and are free to apply to. You can search for individual colleges or list them by state. However, after checking for two states, I found it was missing the majority of the 4-year institutions listed in IPEDS. The list is probably best for identifying schools that accept the SAT waivers.
CollegeXpress also has a list of colleges that are free to apply to. I have no idea of the reliability of the list. Niche also has a list of Top Colleges with No Application Fee that students might find useful. You can also find a list by state at PrepScholar.
The following table of colleges with no application fees is based on the Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and consists of schools that have 500 or more full-time undergraduates. This is part of the data that is included in the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet.
653 Colleges with No Application Fees
Download the No Application Fee Colleges List
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