Editorial: The Cost of Applying to College

by Jessica Tran

Class of 2016

February 1st marked the day where I was done with college applications, for now. I finished writing all of my college essays, organizing my parents’ W-2 tax forms, and filled in all of the bubbles in the Common App. Now, all that’s left to do is apply for scholarship programs, which can be even more confusing, but that’s a different story.

When I began the college application process a few months ago, something irked me – the price. Application fees ranging from $50 to $80 to be considered. It is frightening how much it costs, considering how many schools students apply to. Some students apply to four schools, while others may apply to as many as fifteen. All of these applications can add up; however, this isn’t the end of it. I did not realize that the College Board and ACT has their own fees to send in their tests. What ended up happening was that I thought college applications would cost one thing, but it ended up costing hundreds more because of these fees.

Hypothetically, let’s make up a student. Bob is applying to five colleges: University of Massachusetts Boston, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Boston University, and Boston College. To account for their 2015-2016 application fees and create a total: here is the cost:

University Application Fee College Board’s SAT fee ACT fee Sub total
U Mass Boston $60 $11.25 $12 $83.25
Northeastern U $75 $11.25 $12 $98.25
Tufts U $70 $11.25 $12 $93.25
Boston U $80 $11.25 $12 $103.25
Boston College $75 $11.25 $12 $98.25
TOTAL $416.25


$476.25 to know if you get into five schools is frightening. If you are like some students who want to keep their options open, then this price only increases. The price tag to apply is, to a degree, understandable. An admissions officer has to sit down and read your application in its entirety and to judge whether you’d be a good fit at their school; however, the price is outrageous when you consider that not everyone can pay for it. Lower income students have limited options. Many cannot afford to apply to many schools, which in turn hampers their prospects as to financial aid because by not applying to as many schools they have less options as to what they will pay in college in the future.

There are options to reduce the cost of applications. Talking to your guidance counselor about obtaining a waiver is the most obvious one, but also if you do sports then talking to a college’s coaches about a waiver is another. If you qualified for a SAT fee waiver then you can send four score reports for free, and you have four free score reports available up to nine days after the test date, totalling to a possible free eight score reports. The free reports available nine days after your test are practical and unpractical depending on your situation. The best way to use them is if you take the SAT in December because by then you’ll know, or should know, where you will be applying to and can use them. If you took the SAT as a junior, then you would not have these free reports.

Whatever you do, applying to college is a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ll pay for tuition and fees.

Jessica Tran is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition