Updated 10/15/13: This article has been updated to remove a reference to the University of New Haven, which has notified U.S. News that it incorrectly reported its application fee.
The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
Paying for college is a huge financial investment that makes a dent in people's pocketbooks long before the first day of class.
Tasks such as taking the SATs and visiting colleges can be expensive. And then there's the application fee, an often overlooked expense that can stress your budget if you apply to many schools.
The average fee for submitting a college application has been steadily rising in recent years, according to data reported in an annual survey to U.S. News.
The average application fee that 1,229 ranked institutions provided in spring 2013 was $38.39, though that figure doesn't account for fees that are reduced in special circumstances.
That dollar amount is the highest it's been in six years, according to data from U.S. News. In spring 2007, for example, schools reported an average cost of $35.33 in application fees nationally. That average climbed to $35.97 in 2008, $36.37 in 2009, $36.92 in 2010, $37.45 in 2011 and $37.88 in 2012.
[Learn how to apply to college for free.]
But it's important to note that not all students will pay the regular application fee. In some instances, colleges offer a lower application fee to students who completed their application online.
At the top 28 schools with the highest application costs, the average application fee is $77, nearly double the national average.
All of those schools, as well as many others that reported their data to U.S. News, waived their application fees for students in need of financial aid.
When calculating the list, U.S. News selected the cheaper option for schools that had different fees for applications submitted online.
Two schools – George Mason University and Drexel University – would have made the list if it only took into account their most expensive application fees – $100 and $75, respectively. But they are not included because their online application fees were considerably lower – $60 and free, respectively.
Stanford University has the most expensive application fee in the nation, according to data adjusted to reflect the cheapest way to apply. Applicants to Stanford paid $90 to submit either a hard copy or online application.
Below is the list of schools with the highest application fees – reflecting the lowest fee, if a school charged less for online applications – for undergraduates, as reported by schools in 2013. Schools are listed from highest fee to lowest and are listed alphabetically if they have the same fee.
Schools designated by U.S. News as Unranked were excluded from this list. U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked.
|School name (state)||Application fee||U.S. News rank and category|
|Stanford University (CA)||$90||5, National Universities|
|Boston University||$80||41, National Universities|
|Columbia University (NY)||$80||4, National Universities|
|Dartmouth College (NH)||$80||10, National Universities|
|University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill||$80||30, National Universities|
|University of Southern California||$80||23, National Universities|
|Villanova University (PA)||$80||1, Regional Universities (North)|
|Brandeis University (MA)||$75||32, National Universities|
|Brown University (RI)||$75||14, National Universities|
|California Institute of Technology||$75||10, National Universities|
|College of New Jersey||$75||5, Regional Universities (North)|
|Cornell University (NY)||$75||16, National Universities|
|Duke University (NC)||$75||7, National Universities|
|George Washington University (DC)||$75||52, National Universities|
|Harvard University (MA)||$75||2, National Universities|
|Kean University (NJ)||$75||RNP*|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||$75||7, National Universities|
|Northeastern University (MA)||$75||49, National Universities|
|Rice University (TX)||$75||18, National Universities|
|Texas A&M University—College Station||$75||69, National Universities|
|University of Chicago||$75||5, National Universities|
|University of Delaware||$75||75, National Universities|
|University of Massachusetts—Amherst||$75||91, National Universities|
|University of Notre Dame (IN)||$75||18, National Universities|
|University of Pennsylvania||$75||7, National Universities|
|University of Texas—Austin||$75||52, National Universities|
|Washington University in St. Louis||$75||14, National Universities|
|Yale University (CT)||$75||3, National Universities|
*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its rankings category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find information about reduced application fees, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2013 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The application fees data above are correct as of Sept. 17, 2013.