There’s no doubt about it: college application fees can quickly pile up.
A college application fee typically ranges from $40 to $75, so it may seem like a relatively small amount compared to the total cost of your college attendance.
However, between “reach,” “target,” and “safety” colleges, you can find yourself giving up hundreds of dollars even before you get a single acceptance letter.
If you’re looking for a way to save money then you’re in luck! We’ve done the research and found 52 US colleges where you can apply for free, and sorted them by their Times Higher Education College Rankings 2021. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Go for a College With No Application Fee?
When you’re already dropping thousands of dollars to attend college you may think that it’s unnecessary to worry about a standard fee that’s less than 100 bucks. But hear us out.
Applying to a few colleges with no application fees can be a practical choice when you’re looking for safety schools. If your prospective colleges require you to pay application fees, having a cheaper back-up can save you a few bucks if things don’t go your way.
What to Know Before Choosing a College With No Application Fee
While you should consider application fees carefully, make sure that they’re not the deciding factor in your college decision. Look into the details that help you form an accurate opinion, such as school accreditation and non-refundable enrollment deposit fees.
If a no-fee school doesn’t meet your standards or doesn’t have any programs or opportunities you are interested in, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. Many universities award generous grants and scholarships to offset the cost of attendance. You can also consider applying for a federal financial aid package.
Other Ways to Reduce College Application Fees
If an online application doesn’t get you anywhere, you can opt for a fee waiver. This is generally given to students who need financial help. Of course, it comes with certain requirements that include:
- Holding an SAT or ACT fee waiver
- Being enrolled in the National School Lunch Program
- Having your family income fall within the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Income Eligibility Guidelines
- Being enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that helps students from low-income families
- Living in a foster home or any housing subsidized by the federal government
Some schools won’t require you to pay if you either visit their campus or submit a complete application form before a given date. You may also be exempted if you send your application through online submission tools like the Coalition and Common App.
You can also try to apply for a formal waiver through the Common App or the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).
With this information, incoming college students can effectively curate a list of prospective schools. To save even more cash, consider cheap colleges, free community colleges, schools that accept fee waivers, or those that don’t have application fees from the get-go — like the ones on the list below!
Complete List of US Colleges That You Can Apply to for Free
Here is a complete list of US colleges that allow you to apply without paying a college application fee.
|College||Location||Ranking (THE)||Type of College||Notes|
|Yale University||New Haven, Connecticut||3||Private||There's a $80 fee but it can be waived.|
|Wellesley College||Wellesley, Massachusetts||29||Private||-|
|Carleton College||Northfield, Minnesota||36||Private||-|
|Milwaukee School of Engineering||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||40||Private||-|
Case Western Reserve University
Has a $70 fee that can be waived through Common App/Coalition App.
|Mount Holyoke College|
South Hadley, Massachusetts
|Bryn Mawr College||Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania||66||Private||Online application is free, paper application incurs a $50 fee.|
|Grinnell College||Grinnell, Iowa||68||Private||-|
|Tulane University||New Orleans, Louisiana||68||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Colby College||Waterville, Maine||71||Private||-|
|Macalester College||Saint Paul, Minnesota||77||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Reed College||Portland, Oregon||86||Private||-|
|Kenyon College||Gambier, Ohio||94||Private||-|
Colorado Springs, Colorado
|102||Private||But there is a general obligation fee of $1,000.|
|DePauw University||Greencastle, Indiana||111||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Trinity University||San Antonio, Texas||113||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Denison University||Granville, Ohio||114||Private||-|
|SLU – Saint Louis University||St. Louis, Missouri||114||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Rhodes College||Memphis, Tennessee||121||Private||-|
|Union College||Schenectady, New York||132||Private||There's a $60 fee but it can be waived.|
|Illinois Wesleyan University||Bloomington, Illinois||135||Private||-|
|Drake University||Des Moines, Iowa||144||Private||Online application is free.|
Sewanee - The University of the South
|St. Olaf College||Northfield, Minnesota||149||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|The College of Wooster||Wooster, Ohio||158||Private||Online application is free, paper application incurs a $45 fee.|
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
|Geneva, New York||162||Private||Online application is free, paper application incurs a $45 fee.|
|Lawrence University||Appleton, Wisconsin||167||Private||-|
|Baylor University||Waco, Texas||175||Private||Online application is free, paper application incurs a $50 fee.|
|Ursinus College||Collegeville, Pennsylvania||178||Private||-|
|Gustavus Adolphus College||Saint Peter, Minnesota||189||Private||-|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||Delaware, Ohio||198||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
Michigan Technological University
|Southwestern University||Georgetown, Texas||205||Private||-|
|Earlham College||Richmond, Indiana||217||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Beloit College||Beloit, Wisconsin||225||Private||-|
|Centre College||Danville, Kentucky||235||Private||-|
|University of Dayton||Dayton, Ohio||240||Private||-|
|Hendrix College||Conway, Arkansas||261||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Hampshire College||Amherst, Massachusetts||285||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Hampden Sydney College|
Hampden Sydney, Virginia
|298||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
University of St. Thomas – Minnesota
|Saint Paul, Minnesota||303||Private||-|
|Transylvania University||Lexington, Kentucky||401-500||Private||Application is free, but only via the Common App.|
|Creighton University||Omaha, Nebraska||Unranked||Private||-|
|Hillsdale College||Hillsdale, Michigan||Unranked||Private||Online application is free, paper application incurs a $35 fee.|
|Lewis and Clark College||Portland, Oregon||Unranked||Private||-|
|New Mexico Military Institute||Roswell, New Mexico||Unranked||Public||-|
|Presbyterian College||Clinton, South Carolina||Unranked||Private||-|
|St. John's College||Annapolis, Maryland||Unranked||Private||-|
United States Merchant Marine Academy
|Kings Point, New York||Unranked||Public||-|
United States Military Academy at West Point
|West Point, New York||Unranked||Public||-|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a college application fee?
A college application fee is a sum students are required to pay when they apply to a school. It’s mainly used to cover the cost of reviewing applications from prospective students. During these times, the admissions committee conducts interviews, answers inquiries, and screens the students. Colleges also charge the fee to gauge the seriousness of the student applying since the school stands to lose valuable time and money if an applicant declines after having been accepted.
What is the average cost of application fees?
The average cost of an application fee is $44, according to data from 936 ranked universities gathered by US News. However, the 62 schools charging the highest fees have an average of $78. The University of California, San Diego tops the list with a $105 fee, followed by Arkansas Baptist College with $100.
Don’t forget to put the money you save from these tips to good use! You can use those funds for other college expenses so that your student loans won’t be too much of a burden in the future.