After submitting several college applications that cost between $35 and $50 each, prospective student Alexandra Sossi was pleasantly surprised to learn that at Washington and Jefferson College, a small school in Pennsylvania, she could apply for free.
"It kind of takes a load off, since you have all the other costs coming up—the AP and SAT tests, and then looming college loans," says Sossi, who's now a senior at Washington and Jefferson. "It was nice to know I didn't have to pay for the application as well."
College applications can get pricey, but many universities offer a free way to apply. Find out if there's a way you can save costs, too:
1. If you're Web-savvy: Students, like Sossi, who apply online can score free application submissions at many colleges. In addition to Washington and Jefferson College, the numerous institutions that waive application fees for online applicants include Upper Iowa University, Millikin University, Juniata College, Kettering University, York College of Pennsylvania, Drake University, Smith College, Barry University, and Mercyhurst College.
Often, schools advertise the fact that they waive application fees for online applicants. As you're exploring the websites of colleges you're considering, keep your eyes peeled for a money-saving application option.
2. If you have a connection: At some schools, being a relative or friend of a graduate can get you a free application. At Western New England University in Massachusetts, for instance, students can apply for free if they have a parent or grandparent who attended or if they're are able to secure a letter of recommendation from another grad.
"It's not a huge benefit in terms of [finances], but it's more symbolic," says Charles Pollock, the school's vice president for enrollment management. "If their parent or grandparent is an alum, it's the legacy of continuing forward."
If a relative's or friend's alma mater sounds like it might be a good fit for you, too, check to see if their backing will allow you to apply for free.
3. If you take a road trip: Sometimes, just showing up can mean the difference between applying for free or getting stuck with a charge. At Alfred University, for example, school officials not only want to encourage face-to-face interaction, they want to show their appreciation to families who make the trek to upstate New York, says Cory Unis, the college's director of admissions.
But don't just drop by campus hoping to pick up an application fee waiver. Some schools, including Maryland's McDaniel College, require students to schedule and complete an official college visit through the Office of Admissions before taking home a free pass. When planning your college visits, do some research beforehand to make sure you don't miss out on an opportunity to get a waiver.
[Get more tips on making college visits.]