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Money Matters: The Fiscal Truth Behind the College Process

The CSS profile and Common Application open on a student's computer.

The CSS profile and Common Application open on a student's computer.

Adriana Castro

The CSS profile and Common Application open on a student's computer.

Adriana Castro

Adriana Castro

The CSS profile and Common Application open on a student's computer.

Money Matters: The Fiscal Truth Behind the College Process

November 7, 2018

As every high school student is bound to find out, college puts a big financial burden on families. Most parents and students are concerned about the annual cost of going to college, forgetting about the cost of simply applying to college. Apart from just application fees, there are fees to send standardized test scores, financial aid applications, and many more. This is extremely important to consider prior to a student’s senior year of high school to ensure that money is not an impediment.

The SAT or ACT test scores are required for the majority of colleges to be considered for admission. These tests cost an average of 50 to 80 dollars depending on which type you are taking and whether you are applying during the late registration period or not.  Many colleges require that these scores be sent to them through The College Board or ACT, which costs $11.25 and $13, respectively, per score.

Ironically, there are even fees to send financial aid information to prospective colleges. The Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) and the College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile are the main platforms used to send this information. While the FAFSA does not charge students to send their financial aid eligibility information to colleges, the CSS profile does. Many private colleges require the completion of the CSS profile. Once this is filled out, there is a $16 dollar fee per college that you add to receive your CSS profile. Apart from these financial obligations, many colleges also have application fees, which require students to pay even up to $90 to send in their application. In most cases, the more prestigious the college is, the more steeper the fee. This financial obligation forces many students to choose between their top choices before even applying.

Mark Snyder
This graphic shows some of the fees associated with applying to college and their average cost.

“I had to cut down at least 5 of my dream schools from my list because I could not possibly afford to pay so much only on application fees. It was a very difficult decision to make,” senior Sofia Villarroel said.

Despite all of these financial burdens imposed on prospective college students, many colleges are attempting to alleviate this through fee waivers, self-reported test scores and test-optional policies. There are many fee waivers for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch or that qualify to receive them as decided by the college. In this instance, colleges and other related agencies do the most they can so that low-income students have the same opportunity to apply as their more wealthy peers. Many of these students end up paying little to nothing through the application process.

“Thankfully I had waivers for basically all of my schools and did not have to pay for almost any applications. I ended up applying to 18 schools.  It has saved me a lot of money,” senior Camila Torres said.

Nevertheless, students and parents should plan in advance for this possible financial burden that comes with applying to college, before considering the increasingly high costs of attendance.

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