application fee waiver
Many universities provide options for you to request for an application fee waiver. Source: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP

Studying in the US is a dream for many students, and who could blame them? The US is home to many prestigious universities — five of which are in the top 10 universities in the world, according to the latest QS World University Rankings 2023. The cost of studying abroad, however, can easily add up. Apart from tuition, you’ll also have to factor in other expenses such as visa and application fees. 

Savings, both big and small, can go a long way. Luckily for you, there are universities in the US that don’t have application fees, or that provide an application fee waiver for students looking to save on the non-refundable fee (which can vary between 40 to 275 US dollars, depending on the institution and programme). These fees are usually charged by universities to cover the administrative costs of reviewing and evaluating applications.

With the strengthening of the US currency against other currencies especially those in developing nations an application fee waiver could offer some financial respite, and lets you concentrate on what matters most: your studies and international student experience.

Application fee waiver

As an international student, you can file for an application fee waiver when applying for a US university through the common or coalition app. Source: Robert Chiarito/AFP

How to benefit from an application fee waiver

There are several ways to apply for an application fee waiver. These could include:

Request for an application fee waiver

Contact the programme coordinator or admissions team of your desired school to make an inquiry if they would be willing to waive the application fee. Provide evidence of your lack of financial ability to support your request.

Early application

Early applications are open sometime between November and December of the year before you’re expected to begin your studies.

There are several perks that come with filing an early application, which include an application fee waiver and a higher chance of getting selected to be admitted from your programme of choice, notes Scholarship Region.

Common application

If you’re filing for the common application, you can request for an application fee waiver from any of your common application schools.

In your profile section, you will have to indicate whether or not you qualify for a fee waiver, and provide your reason accordingly.

Coalition application

Like the common application, you can also state your need to have your application fee waived when filing your application. You will be shown a list of Coalition App schools that will waive your application fees based on the answers you have selected.

If you’re eligible, your counsellor will receive your request for a fee waiver. Their approval will be sent to the colleges you apply to through the app.

Attend a university open day

You could be eligible for an application fee waiver when you attend — physically or virtually — to a university open day or fair.

Use a free code

Some universities give away free codes to a select number of students on their application websites, so keep your eyes peeled for them.

Source: Sean Rayford/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

US universities that offer application fee waivers

Many universities provide options for you to request an application fee waiver or that offer a need-based fee waiver, such as:

US universities without application fees

There are also universities that do not have application fees. These include: