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The Common Application, also known as the Common App, makes it easy to apply to multiple colleges using one application. Is your dream school a Common App college? Here’s everything you need to know.

The Common Application

What is the Common Application?

The Common Application is a single online college application form used by over 900 colleges and universities. Instead of filling out the same general information—like your address, GPA, and extracurriculars— a dozen times, you only have to do it once. The Common App dashboard also helps you track necessary application documents (like your letters of recommendation) and important deadlines.

What colleges use the Common App?

Common App colleges are a varied list of institutions: private, public, big, small, engineering colleges and liberal arts schools. Check out the full list of the 918  Common App schools .

When does the Common App open?

Get ready for  application season ! The Common App goes live every year on August 1.

When is the Common App due?

Your application deadline depends on whether you are applying early decision (typically November 1) or regular decision (typically January 1). Deadlines also vary by school, so be sure to check dates for every college you are applying to. You can find application deadlines (plus tons of school information) in our online college profiles .

Read More: College Search

What are the Common Application essays?

You’ll submit one essay through the Common Application for all your schools. Some colleges may ask you to also answer a few supplemental questions. Check out previous  Common App essay prompts now so you can start strategizing about which essay to write.

Do you apply for financial aid through the Common App?

The financial aid process begins with filling out the FAFSA and is separate from submitting your Common App (and with different deadlines!). Learn everything you need to know about financial aid .

What does the Common App cost?

The platform itself is free to use, but every college charges their own application processing fee (usually $30 to $75 for U.S. applicants and more for international applicants). You can apply for a fee waiver if you need one.

How do you apply to Common App colleges?

Follow these steps to apply to college through the Common Application.

1. Create a Common App account.

All you need is an e-mail address to get started. You'll be prompted to create a login and password and to answer a few quick questions about who you are (parent, teacher, or counselor) and when you're applying to college.

2. Confirm which of the schools on your list accept the Common Application.

Not all schools accept the Common App. Colleges may require that you fill out their own application form or ask you to use another application system like ApplyTexas for Texas colleges. Add schools that interest you to the My Colleges list in your Common App account.

3. Review the admission information for every school you are considering.

Keep in mind that Common App schools can have different writing, testing, essay, and letter of recommendation requirements. Make sure you do your research! You’ll use the same Common College application form but admission requirements may differ from school to school. For example, one college may require the SAT,   while another school might be test optional. Many schools will ask you write essays in addition to the Common App essay or have additional college-specific questions for you to answer. You’ll be able to submit all of these extras through the Common App dashboard.

Read More: Popular College Essay Prompts (and How to Tackle Them)

4. Gather the information you KNOW you’ll need

For the most part every application will ask for a copy of your high school transcript, a list of your extracurriculars , and information about your parent or guardian's educational background and work history.

5. Start working on your application

Your Application Dashboard will show all your colleges and the status of each component of your application. Pick an essay topic, start filling in general information, or ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation. There's no college application task too big or small!  

6. Track the status of your application(s)

The icons on your Dashboard are there to guide your way. A green check means your work has been submitted to that particular college, a yellow circle means your application is still in progress, and a red dash means that a particular section is not required for admission to that college. 

Submit all your application materials by 11:59pm (in your local time zone) on the deadline date posted in your Common App Dashboard.

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Updated Aug 10, 2023

Everything You Need to Know about Common App

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As you prep to apply to college, you’ve likely heard of Common App. It is one application that lets you use the same information to apply to multiple colleges.

This has a lot of benefits:

  • You’re not filling in the same information across multiple applications, which saves time.
  • You can also invite your high school counselors and teachers to submit their recommendations directly through the Common App platform, where the recommendation will be filed along with your application.
  • There is a mobile app where you can track your application materials.

Getting to know the Common App will help you maximize it and use it as a tool as you apply to college. You’re likely to become very familiar with it during admissions season. Here’s what to know before you get started.

When does the new Common App cycle open?

The Common App opens on August 1. It can be a good idea to get started on it as soon as it opens. Filling out the fields you can now, adding schools, and becoming familiar with the dashboard can make the process go more smoothly once senior year starts. Keep in mind that deadlines may vary between the schools on your list. You will be able to see your deadlines on the Common App dashboard.

What schools use Common App?

Over 1,000 universities and colleges use Common App. Other schools that are part of the Coalition for College use a different type of application called the Coalition Application . Some schools have their own application and also accept the Common App. In these cases, there’s no advantage of using one application over another.

What are Common App essay requirements?

Common App has several essay prompts , and you can choose which one makes the most sense for you. This essay can be sent to all your schools, but each college may have additional writing prompts that are custom to that school. In most cases, you are able to fill these out within the Common App portal.

How do I request a fee waiver for Common App?

Even if all the colleges you apply to use Common App, you’ll likely have to pay an application fee for every school you apply to. Application fees vary , with the average being $45. Some applications can cost as much as $100.

You can request a fee waiver through Common App if your family financial circumstances fit the criteria.

How are letters of recommendation sent on Common App?

Ask your teachers and guidance counselors to upload their letters of recommendation through the Common App portal. They are likely doing this for dozens of other students, so they should be familiar with the process. You won’t be able to see the letters, but you can choose which letters of recommendation go to which schools—so, for example, if you’re applying to a school with a strong performing arts program , you might choose the letter from your drama teacher.

You’ll be able to see on your dashboard when your letters have been submitted. If the deadline is approaching and letters still haven’t been submitted, it’s okay to reach out to your recommenders and ask if they need any more information.

Can you edit the Common App after submitting?

Once your application is submitted, it belongs to the admissions office. You can’t make any adjustments. If there is an error, you would need to contact the school you submitted the Common App to and ask for recommendations for how to fix the application.

That said, you don’t need to submit all your applications at once. You can submit applications to different schools at different points in time.

Common App Tips

  • Write all essay prompts offline. Instead of filling out any essays within Common App, write them in a word processing program and then copy and paste.
  • Decide who your advisors will be. Having a parent, guardian, or high school counselor look through your materials can be helpful. But too many advisors can be complicated. Choose one or two people to do a final pass through your materials.
  • Give yourself a deadline a week or so prior to the official deadline. That way you have time to fix things in case anything comes up.
  • Consider submitting applications on a rolling basis. This way, you can spend a week focusing on polishing a few applications, rather than trying to finish everything at once.

Once you get to know your way around Common App, it can be an easy way to keep track of deadlines and application materials during the hectic application season.

Applying to college? We can help.

Related articles, if you’ve fallen behind on applications, here’s how to recover now, 7 good questions to ask during your college interview, what makes a good college essay topic, should i use ai in my college application.

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The data is updated nightly from the main admissions database and has the most up-to-date information available from our office. If you have sent us required materials that are shown in your status as not received, it is possible that those documents are being processed (along with thousands of others) in our office and simply have not yet made it to your file. Though we can not track each individual's materials upon request, we will conduct a thorough scrutiny of all files prior to committee evaluations. You will be contacted if you are missing required documents, and you will be given the opportunity to re-submit them without penalty.

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We are test optional for this admissions cycle. If you decide to submit scores for consideration, they need to be reported by the following deadlines: Scores from applicants applying for our Restrictive Early Action program must be reported by the end of November. Scores from applicants applying for our Regular Decision program must be reported by the end of February.

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Applicants are assigned interviews at the discretion of the Admissions Committee, based, in part, on availability of alumni in your local area. Nearly 10,000 alumni/ae volunteers help us recruit students from all 50 states and around the world, but most areas do not have the capacity to interview all applicants. Your application is considered complete without an interview and will receive a full and thorough evaluation. In most cases, the Admissions Committee has sufficient information in the student’s application materials to reach an admissions decision. If the Committee would like more information about a student or has questions about any application materials, someone may reach out to schedule an interview.

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For all first-year and transfer applicants, your first step will be to fill out and submit an application. You can do so through the Common Application or the Coalition Application - Powered by Scoir. For first-year applicants, the Common Application opens on August 1 and the Coalition Application opens on August 15. For transfer applicants, both applications open on September 1. 

We have no preference and each application is treated equally by the Admissions Committee. 

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Click below to learn more about each component. 

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How Much Does It Cost to Apply to College?

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By Jeff White, CEPF

December 29, 2022

The average cost to apply to school is around $2,500 including application fees and other expenses associated with applying to a top school such as making a visit. The average college application fee is around $45, but in reality, can range anywhere between $30 to $90. Not to mention the other costs associated with applying to colleges, such as standardized test scores, travel expenses, and fees to retrieve transcripts.

It’s important to understand the costs of applying to college so that you can budget and plan accordingly. There are also a few tricks you can use to make this process as affordable as possible and save your funds for actually paying for college.

Before diving in, it’s important to know that applications are not a qualified expense to be used out of a 529 plan. However, using a 529 plan is as important as ever, especially when you factor in the costs of applying to school.

Understanding the Cost of Applying to College

We all know that college is expensive . In fact, most four-year undergraduate degrees today cost upward of $100,000. However, the expenses can start before the first semester kicks off, and even before you’ve been accepted by the school. This includes not only the application fee but also a range of other costs associated with preparing your application.

Every school has its own set of requirements for applicants, which typically include SAT scores and/or ACT scores, high school transcripts, a personal essay, and letters of recommendation.

Many of these requirements come at a cost. For example, you need to pay for standardized testing which could require travel to the testing site, which also involves expenses. You may also need to pay to retrieve your high school transcripts.

Application fees themselves can vary depending on factors like the school’s reputation and how many students are applying every year: higher volumes of applications translate into more work for admissions staff. The admission process is lengthy and extensive and involves screening, verifying documentation, and individually evaluating applicants.

For this reason, elite schools that receive many applications often ask a higher application fee in comparison to other colleges. Typically, the application fee for undergraduates is different from that of graduate programs, and there are also distinct fee structures for transferring and international students.

Costs of Applying to College

It’s important to be aware of the various costs associated with applying to college. Not only will this help you to create a realistic budget, but it may affect how many schools you decide to apply to.

The cost of college applications includes: 

  • Application fees range between $30 and $90 per application, with a national average of $43.
  • Standardized testing prep courses or tutoring
  • SAT or ACT test fees (currently $55 and $85 respectively for the full SAT and full ACT with writing)
  • Late registration, cancellation, or testing site change fees for standardized tests (for example the ACT late registration fee is $36, and the ACT change fee is $40)
  • Travel expenses to visit schools , attend standardized test sites, or attend interviews, if you’re applying to schools in another city or state
  • Fees to retrieve your high school transcripts , especially if you use a third-party service
  • Other prep for college application testing such as essay tutorials

Depending on the school and the program you’re applying to, you may not have to pay all of these fees. For example, not all colleges require SAT and ACT scores. Similarly, international students and transfer students may be charged differently.

Average Cost of Applying to School

Let’s take a look at a working example of what a typical student might pay to apply for school. In this example, the undergraduate student is applying to seven different colleges, including a few highly-competitive top schools . For this reason, they’ve chosen to take both the SAT and ACT to strengthen their application.

Note that some of the costs, such as application fees, are multiplied by the number of schools they’re applying to, and others, like standardized test fees, only need to pay once.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs they can expect to pay to apply for college(the actual costs could be higher or lower depending on what you choose to do and where you apply):

Top 10 Schools With the Highest Application Fees

Generally, the schools that have the highest application fees are renowned universities that receive high volumes, such as Stanford, Columbia, and Harvard. These schools charge around $80 or $90 to submit an application, if you’re planning on applying to a number of Ivy League schools, be prepared for the application fees to quickly add up.

Although many public schools have application fees that are a fraction of this cost, starting at around $30, there are some exceptions. For example, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University have comparable application fees to many Ivy League schools.

Here are the 10 of the schools in the U.S. with the highest application fees at the time of writing:

  • Stanford University: $90
  • The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill : $85
  • North Carolina State University : $85
  • Columbia University : $85
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst : $85
  • Duke University : $85
  • Harvard University : $85
  • Boston University : $80
  • Yale University : $80
  • Dartmouth College : $80

Tips for Reducing Your Total Application Costs

Don’t be put off by the costs of applying to college. There is a variety of ways to reduce or even avoid paying the hefty application fees altogether.

1. Apply to No-Fee Schools

If you’re on a tight budget , the first thing you should do is look for schools that don’t charge any application fees. Most states have at least one no-fee college that makes education as accessible as possible. In most cases, these are small schools that are supported financially by larger institutions, as well as military institutions, online or Christian colleges, and liberal arts schools.

Some examples of no-fee schools include:

  • Wellesley College (MA)
  • Tulane University (LA)
  • University of Houston-Victoria (TX)
  • College of the Ozarks (MO)
  • University of Scranton (PA)
  • The United States Naval Academy (MD), Military Academy (NY), and Air Force Academy (CO)

Of course, you may have your heart set on one or more schools that charge application fees. In that case, there are other things you can try to reduce or eliminate the standard application fee.

2. Apply for Fee Waivers

Schools don’t want fees to be a deterrent for deserving applicants, and so most offer application fee waivers for students in circumstances, usually based on need or merit. If you’re still in high school, ask your guidance counselor how to get a fee waiver for your dream schools. You can also contact the admissions office directly and ask for an application fee waiver.

Additionally, some schools waive fees when you apply through portals like Common App , either for all candidates or those who meet certain criteria. Common App gives you the option to check a box to request a fee waiver, making the process extremely easy.

3. Pay Attention to Fee-Free Periods

Many public schools offer a “free application” period, a limited window where you can apply for college without needing to pay an application fee. These state-sponsored periods typically run for between a week and a month, opening in September or October.

In any case, you should be aiming to put together your college applications around this time, in order to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after it opens. Consult your school counselor or do your own research to check these deadlines to make sure you don’t miss this brief window.

4. Apply Online

In many cases, colleges offer more affordable application fees if you apply online, or they may waive the fee altogether. Online applications make things much easier for school admissions offices, as they involve less paperwork and are much quicker and easier to assess. For this reason, many schools encourage digital applications through reduced fees.

5. Shortlist Your Preferred Schools

One of the best ways to avoid paying unnecessary application fees and reduce the cost of applying to college is to be judicious about how many schools you apply to. College application fees can quickly add up, so critically assess your list of potential college schools and shortlist it to a reasonable number of schools that fit your application budget. For most students, it won’t make sense to apply to more than six to eight schools, and for some, applying to three or four will be sufficient.

Assess each school based on its pros and cons, and eliminate any that don’t feel like a good fit or don’t match your goals. Try to keep most of your shortlist “target schools”: these are colleges that you feel you have a reasonable chance of getting into. It can also be a good idea to include a safety school or two, as well as a reach school that you’re really drawn to, but don’t have very good chances of getting accepted.

6. Don’t Pay for Services You Don’t Need

Beyond the application fee, you may be tempted to shell out for all kinds of services as you prepare your college application, from paying to retrieve your high school transcripts to SAT and college essay tutoring. Carefully consider whether they’ll really give you a better chance of getting into your dream college or if they’re simply a waste of money. This will depend on your strengths as well as the competitiveness of the schools you’re applying to.

Additionally, there may be cheaper or even free alternatives available. For example, you can often find your transcript for free through your state’s Department of Education or the school district, which you can search via the National Center for Education Statistics . Similarly, group sessions can be much more affordable than one-on-one tutoring – check with your guidance counselor to explore your options.

How to Pay for College Applications

Even when you minimize the costs of applying to college as much as possible, it’s likely you will need to pay some amount of money. Therefore, it’s important to set a budget for the whole process and work out whether you’ll fund it through income, short-term savings, or from your long-term college savings.

You could take funds out of your Roth IRA account, if you have one, and use these to pay for your child’s college applications. You can withdraw contributions to your Roth IRA tax-free at any time and use these to pay for whatever you like, including college application fees and expenses.

The best way to pay for college applications is by saving money and paying out-of-pocket for those costs. This may require you to work more or budget these costs into your normal expenses. You may also find that you need to limit the number of schools you apply for to the amount you can afford.

The Bottom Line

The high costs of going to college start before you’ve even been accepted, thanks to a range of fees and expenses associated with applying. So, how much does it cost to apply to college?

For most schools, you’ll need to pay an application of somewhere between $30 and $90, as well as other costs such as SAT or ACT testing fees. You may also need to travel to visit colleges you’re considering, as well as for interviews, which comes at a cost, and may choose to pay for tutoring and other prep.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that you can limit these costs, by carefully considering how many and which schools you’ll apply to, as well as exploring options such as fee waivers and online applications. If you or your child is still in high school, be sure to ask your school guidance counselor for their help. 

For more on how to save for college and secure your or your child’s future, take a look at this summary of the best 529 plans available .

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do college applications cost money.

College admissions can be costly: application fees vary depending on the school, but can be as much as $90 per application. You also need to consider other costs associated with putting in an application, such as standardized test fees, prep tutoring, and travel expenses. 

How much does it cost to apply to Harvard?

Harvard’s current application fee for first-year applicants is $85. This fee is the same for both international and US candidates, and the school allows students to apply for a fee waiver .

Why is it so expensive to apply to college?

Top schools receive hundreds of thousands of applications every year and need to review each application to ensure equal opportunities for all applicants. This requires large admissions teams that record and evaluate applications, and then communicate with students regarding their admission status.

Even if everything is done online, there’s a team of people working at the back end, who go through the applications and identify the best candidates. High application fees are also a way for schools to discourage students from making large numbers of applications and applying to schools they are not interested in or are very unlikely to get into.

What can I do if I can’t afford college application costs?

If you can’t afford to apply to college, there are a number of ways you can make the process more affordable. If you can demonstrate significant need or merit, you can apply for a fee waiver, meaning you won’t need to pay the college application fee. You can also reduce your costs by narrowing down your shortlist of schools or applying to no-fee schools.

Do I have to pay the application fee if the School Rejects Me?

Usually, you pay the application fee upfront when you submit your application, and this won’t be refunded, even if your application is rejected. This is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to carefully consider which schools you plan to apply to.

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It could cost as much as $4,688 to apply to your dream school

What fees you can expect to pay and how to avoid spending thousands..


In this guide

How much do college applications cost?

What other costs should i consider, how one application can cost as much as $4,688, 7 ways to save on your college application, i finished my application. are there other costs i need to consider, bottom line, frequently asked questions.

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College application fees cost an average of $43, according to a 2017 survey by US News and World Report. However, the most common application fee was $50.

Generally, the more exclusive the school, the more it costs to apply. But that’s not always the case. Some schools completely forego the application fee. And most allow students with financial hardship to apply for a fee waiver.

Application fees for top US colleges

Here’s how much it costs to apply to an undergraduate degree program at popular colleges and universities around the US. Graduate applications are typically more expensive. And some schools also have a different fee for transfer or international students.

Even if you only apply to Ivy League school, the application fee might not be the most expensive part of the college admissions process. How much you fork over depends on how much you want to invest in your college application.

SAT and ACT fees

Most colleges require students to submit SAT or ACT scores when they apply. Some states allow students to take these tests for free the first time. Otherwise you have to pay, unless you qualify for a fee waiver.

In fact, the cost of registering for the SAT can be more expensive than some college application fees. If you take it more than once to try to increase your scores, you’ll end up paying even more.

International students might have to pay more to take the SAT, since other countries sometimes have additional processing fees. If you miss your test date, register late or want to change your test date, you also often have to pay more.

Other SAT fees

Other act fees, sat and act score report fees.

Registering for the SAT and ACT is only part of the cost. You also have to get your score report to your schools, which comes with a fee. You generally get a number of free score reports, though most students end up requesting more. Score report requests are eligible for a fee waiver, but other fees might not be.

AP exam fees

  • Regular AP exam: $94 per exam
  • AP Capstone: $142 per exam

Taking AP courses strengthens your college application and helps you save on tuition by allowing you to earn credits for the fraction of the cost of an actual class. But it does increase the upfront cost of applying to college. Like with the SAT and ACT, low-income students might be able to qualify for a fee waiver.

Test prep courses

Test prep courses could be worth the investment if they can boost your score enough to get you into your dream school. But they can easily top $1,000 when you sign up.

Many companies offer the choice between online and classroom tutoring. Princeton offers private tutors starting at $150 an hour, which includes access to its SAT and ACT self-paced courses.

While more personalized attention can help if you’re a student who struggles, take a diagnostic test first to find out how much studying you really need to do. If you’re close to your target score, you might not need to do more than buy a $20 test prep guide and work through it on your own.

College essay tutoring

  • Cost: $100 to $500 per hour

Depending on where you apply, your college essay could be even more important than your grades and test scores. A tutor can help you figure out what you want to say and navigate that tight word limit.

High school transcript fees

  • Cost: Varies by school

Some schools charge students a fee for sending your high school transcript to each college. If you can’t afford the fee, reach out to your guidance counselor to find out if there are fee waivers available.

Factor in test prep, taking the SAT and ACT multiple times, rushing score reports and tutoring and you can end up with a nearly $5,000 bill for that first college application. Here’s how it breaks down:

Want even more tutoring, AP exams and subject tests? Apply to more than one school? You might have to pay even more.

It’s possible to avoid some fees when you’re applying to college. Before you sign up for test prep or submit your application, consider these options for lowering the cost of applying.

1. Apply to no-fee schools

Not all schools charge an application fee — it’s possible one you’ve had your eye on doesn’t. Colleges don’t always advertise that they don’t have an application fee. If you can’t find one listed on their website, give their admissions office a call to make sure there’s no fee to apply.

Schools that rely on the Common App often don’t charge an application fee, though you might have to pay one if the school requires any supplementary forms.

2. Apply early decision to your top choice

Applying early decision can potentially cut down on costs in a few ways. If you get in, you can save on the following fees:

  • Application fees to additional colleges
  • Extra score report fees
  • Transcript fees

3. Be thoughtful about your choices

The more schools you apply to, the more application, score report and transcript fees you have to pay. Think about what you really want out of a school and where you can realistically get in.

Even if you’re at the top of your class, it might not be worth applying to every Ivy League school — you can only attend one, after all. Experts also recommend you apply to at least one safety school, a school of your choice that you have a chance of getting into.

4. Request a fee waiver

Low-income students can often apply for a test or application fee waiver. You can apply for an SAT and ACT fee waiver when you register for the test.

Each school has its own process for waiving application fees — if they even offer it. Some request that you apply through the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the College Board or the Common App. Others might have an application you can complete on their admissions website.

5. Take the SAT or ACT on standby

Both the SAT and ACT charge slightly lower prices to students who sign up to take the test only if there’s room. While you might show up at the testing center only to be turned away, you won’t pay the fee unless you actually test. It’s also a good way to avoid paying late fees — you don’t have to register on time to be waitlisted.

6. Take advantage of free study resources and tutoring

Many high schools and communities offer free test-prep courses and college essay tutoring at little to no cost. Start by reaching out to your high school guidance counselor. Or look into resources offered at community and activist centers in your area.

7. Apply to a college that doesn’t require test scores

Another way to save on test-related costs is to avoid them altogether. Many top schools are test-optional, meaning they don’t require or even consider SAT or ACT scores.

Apply to only these schools and you could still get into a strong school without having to sit through hours of test prep and a long exam.

11 test-optional schools

  • Bates College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • George Washington University
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • University of Chicago
  • Hofstra University
  • Pitzer College
  • Smith College
  • Wake Forest University
  • Wesleyan University

Yes. Even before you sign up for school and start paying tuition and fees, there are a few expenses that might crop up.

  • Visiting colleges. Some colleges require an interview, which could mean you have to travel. Or you might want to visit some schools in person before making a decision. This could easily set you back over $1,000 in airfare, hotels and other travel expenses.
  • Orientation costs. Schools sometimes require incoming first-year students to participate in a bonding experience like a camping trip before the start of the first semester.
  • NCAA registration fees. Student athletes have to register with the NCAA before they start school. This costs $90, though fee waivers are available.
  • Deposits. Some schools require an admissions and housing deposit before you start the semester, which varies by college.
  • Financial aid applications. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) might be free, but some schools require you to also submit a CSS profile . This costs $25 for the first school and $16 for each additional college if you fill it out before getting your acceptance letters.

The cost of college doesn’t start with tuition and fees. It begins with SAT or ACT prep courses, tutoring and AP classes. But you don’t necessarily have to pay thousands of dollars, since there are a few ways around these fees.

You can find other ways to cut down on costs with our college savings hacks . Or learn more about paying for college by reading our student loans guide .

Are there any other costs international students should consider?

Yes. Applying to a US school as an international student is typically more expensive. SAT and ACT score reports might come with higher processing fees. You might have to take the TOEFL or IELTS if English isn’t your first language. Application fees might be higher, and many fee waivers aren’t available to nonresidents.

Research how to pay for school when you’re an international student to learn about your financial aid options.

How many schools should I apply to?

It depends, though generally you should have at least one safety school, one achievable option and one reach.

However, the number of schools you apply to depends on how much time you have to devote to each application and how much you want to spend. The more schools you apply to, the more it can cost. And you might not be able to spend the time you need making each application the best it can be.

Does the SAT fee waiver cover the cost of sending scores?

Yes, you can get a fee waiver to cover additional score reports on top of the registration costs.

college common application cost

Anna Serio is a lead editor at Finder, specializing in consumer and business financing. A trusted lending expert and former certified commercial loan officer, Anna's written and edited more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. Her expertise and analysis on personal, student, business and car loans has been featured in publications like Business Insider, CNBC and Nasdaq, and has appeared on NBC and KADN. Anna holds an MA in Middle Eastern studies from the American University of Beirut and a BA in Creative Writing from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY.

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Colleges With The Highest Application Fees

The average application fee among these schools is about $78, U.S. News data shows.

Highest College Application Fees

college common application cost

Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Some ranked in the top 10 for National Universities, including Columbia University in New York, Harvard University in Massachusetts and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all tied at No. 2; Yale University in Connecticut at No. 5; Stanford University in California and the University of Chicago, both tied at No. 6; the University of Pennsylvania at No. 8; and Duke University in North Carolina, California Institute of Technology and Northwestern University in Illinois, all tied at No. 9.

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 , The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Costs affiliated with earning a postsecondary degree can add up. But expenses like tuition, housing, meal plans, coursework supplies and student organization dues are not the only price tags students and families need to be aware of.

Some fees occur even before students enroll at a college or university.

College applications, for example, often require an essay, transcript and SAT or ACT test scores – although many schools are becoming test optional . Taking the SAT or ACT costs $55 and up to $85, respectively, with additional fees for late registration, cancellations or testing site changes.

Many colleges also require an application fee prior to submission. Prices vary but range up to $100.

Among the 889 ranked colleges who participated in U.S. News' annual survey, the average application fee was nearly $45. The 64 schools with the highest application fees – all at least $75 – charged an average of about $78. Twenty-two of these 64 schools charged more than that, with Arkansas Baptist College topping the list at $100.

However, fee waivers are available in certain circumstances. Students and families can visit the College Board or Common App website to learn about eligibility requirements.

The schools with the highest application fees are predominately National Universities – 53 out of 64 schools – which are typically researched-focused institutions that offer a variety of undergraduate majors in addition to master's and doctoral programs.

Three of the schools featured on the list are categorized as National Liberal Arts Colleges while eight are considered Regional Colleges or Regional Universities with representation from the North, South and West regions.

Below is a list of the 64 colleges that reported the highest application fees in 2021. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

Don't see your school listed here? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find application fees, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,850 colleges and universities for our 2021 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' 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 comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges , Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs . The college application fee data above is correct as of January. 28, 2022.

Tags: college applications , colleges , education , students , paying for college

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, the common application for college.

Hey friends! So I've heard about the Common Application for college, but can someone give me a quick rundown of what it is and how it works? Thanks!

Hello! The Common Application (often called the Common App) is a widely used online platform that allows you to apply to multiple colleges simultaneously. It's designed to streamline the college application process and make it easier for you to apply to multiple schools without having to fill out individual forms for each one. Here's a brief overview of how the Common App works:

1. Creating an account: To get started, you'll need to create an account on the Common Application's official website ( This account allows you to work on your application at your own pace and save your progress as you go.

2. Selecting colleges: Once you've created your account, you can search for colleges and universities within the platform and add them to your "My Colleges" list. The Common App currently partners with over 900 institutions, so you'll likely find many of the schools you're planning to apply to.

3. Filling out the application: The Common App consists of several sections where you'll provide your personal and academic information, as well as details about your extracurricular activities. You'll only need to complete these sections once, and the information will be sent to all the colleges on your list.

4. Writing the personal essay: One of the main components of the Common App is the personal essay, which allows you to showcase your writing skills and provide insight into your character. You'll be prompted to choose from one of several essay prompts, and your response should be between 250-650 words.

5. Supplements and additional materials: Some colleges may require additional essays, short answers, or other materials, which will appear in each college's specific section under the "Writing Supplement" tab. Make sure you complete any additional requirements for each school you're applying to.

6. Recommendations and transcripts: The Common App also has sections for you to request and manage your teacher recommendations, counselor recommendations, and transcripts. You'll input the contact information for the individuals providing these materials, and they'll receive an email with instructions on how to upload them to your application.

7. Paying the application fees: Each college may have its own application fee, which you can pay directly through the Common App platform. Fee waivers are available for eligible students who demonstrate financial need.

8. Submitting your application: Once you've completed all required sections, checked your work for accuracy, and paid the necessary fees, you can submit your application to each school on your list. Remember to always double-check each college's deadlines and requirements before submitting.

In a nutshell, the Common App is a one-stop shop for your college applications. It simplifies the process by allowing you to fill out one application form for multiple colleges and manage all necessary materials in one online location. Good luck with your applications!

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.

college common application cost

What is a Common App fee waiver?

Jul 25, 2023 • knowledge, information.

Common App and our colleges want to make sure that application fees do not pose a barrier for any student. If you meet certain qualifications, you can request a Common App fee waiver.

  • You are enrolled in or eligible to participate in the federal free or reduced price lunch program (FRPL).*
  • You have received or are eligible to receive an SAT or ACT fee waiver.
  • Your annual family income falls within the income eligibility guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., GEAR UP, TRIO such as Upward Bound or others).
  • You live in a federally subsidized public housing, a foster home or are homeless.
  • You are a ward of the state or an orphan.
  • You have received or are eligible to receive a Pell Grant.
  • You can provide a supporting statement from a school official, college access counselor, financial aid officer, or community leader.

*You must enroll or be eligible for the FRPL. Students who attend schools where all students receive free lunch do not automatically qualify for a Common App fee waiver.

Some of these government programs have websites that are hard to navigate. Please reach out to a counselor or another trusted adult if you're unsure if you qualify.

How do I get a Common App fee waiver?

You can use the Common App Fee Waiver section of your Profile to request a fee waiver. If you select that you are eligible for the Common App fee waiver, you will not be charged any application fees when you submit through Common App.

Can international students use a Common App fee waiver?

International students may be eligible for a Common App fee waiver.

Each college has varying policies, so it is not guaranteed that they will accept your fee waiver request as an international student. If a college does not accept your fee waiver, they may ask you to pay the application fee after you submit your application.

What can I do if I don't meet the Common App fee waiver criteria?

Almost half of all Common App colleges do not charge an application fee. You can use the application fee search filters in the College Search tab to find those schools.

Many colleges also offer a college-specific fee waiver. You can contact colleges directly or look for a fee waiver question on their application in the My Colleges tab.

Does it look bad on my application if I apply for a fee waiver?

Definitely not! Colleges don't want application fees to prevent you from applying to your desired school.

Gettysburg College Gettysburg College

Applying to Gettysburg

Applying to Gettysburg College is the first step toward joining a global community of changemakers and trailblazers who are invested in helping you realize and achieve your potential.

Each year, Gettysburg College welcomes a diverse class of highly-motivated students who–surrounded by history and opportunity–strive to Do Great Work as they progress toward building a better world for themselves, their families, and their communities. And by applying to Gettysburg, you are taking the first steps toward becoming a lifelong Gettysburgian. 

Apply Now Request more information

Step 1: Log in to the Common App

Gettysburg College accepts the Common Application, so the first step in the application process is to create a Common App account–or log into an existing account. Once you’re logged in, be sure to add Gettysburg College to your “My Colleges” list. This will give you access to the Gettysburg College member screen, and enable you to submit your Common App to Gettysburg. 

Step 2: Choose an Application Plan

Students may apply for admission to Gettysburg any time after the end of the junior year in high school using the Common Application (

In addition to the Common Application, first-year students must submit an official high school transcript, a counselor recommendation and/or a secondary school report, a teacher recommendation, and a midyear grade report (for Regular Decision only).

Students who are not selecting test optional on the Gettysburg Member Screen of the Common Application may provide standardized test scores (SAT or ACT) which can be self-reported. The deadlines for submitting the application for admission and all supporting documents are referenced in the following Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision sections. Transcripts and other documents required for admission become part of the permanent file of an enrolled student and cannot be returned.

Early Decision (ED)

Students for whom Gettysburg College is a first choice are strongly encouraged to apply for Early Decision admission. The deadline for ED I is November 15 and the deadline for ED II is January 15.

A completed ED application includes: The Common Application, the Early Decision Form, official secondary school transcript, first quarter senior grades, a counselor recommendation, a secondary school report, a teacher recommendation and standardized testing if the student is not applying testing optional.

Notification of the admissions decision will be released in the student’s Gettysburg application portal by December 15 for ED I and February 1 for ED II. If accepted and provided adequate financial assistance, the applicant agrees to withdraw all applications submitted to other institutions, file no additional applications, and enroll at Gettysburg. Most Early Decision applicants who are not offered acceptance will be considered again for Regular Decision admission. Additional semester grades or new test scores may be submitted for applicants deferred to Regular Decision.

Early Action (EA)

Students applying as an EA candidate to Gettysburg College should submit the Common Application by December 1.

A completed EA application includes: The Common Application, official secondary school transcript, first quarter senior grades, a counselor recommendation, a secondary school report, a teacher recommendation and standardized testing if the student is not applying testing optional.

Most offers of acceptance will be released in the student portal by early February. Because Gettysburg College subscribes to the principle of the Candidate's Reply Date, students have until May 1 to make their decision and pay the enrollment deposit.

Regular Decision (RD)

Students applying as a RD candidate to Gettysburg College should submit the Common Application by January 15.

A completed RD application includes: The Common Application, official secondary school transcript, Mid-Year grades for the senior year, a counselor recommendation, a secondary school report, a teacher recommendation and standardized testing if the student is not applying testing optional.

Most offers of acceptance will be released in the student portal by mid-March. Because Gettysburg College subscribes to the principle of the Candidate's Reply Date, students have until May 1 to make their decision and pay the enrollment deposit.

Get the Facts

Visit our  Facts & Figures page, along with our  Academic Programs page, for additional information about Gettysburg College.

Federal legislation requires institutions of higher education to inform prospective members of our community about its most recent crime/incident statistics, crime prevention, security programs and activities, policies concerning the reporting of crime, and related information in accordance with the Clery Act. You can obtain this information by contacting Gettysburg College Campus Safety by mail or in person 51 W Stevens St., Gettysburg, PA 17325 or by calling (717)337-6912. This information is also available on Campus Safety’s website .


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  1. Apply to college with Common App

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  2. College Application Fees: What It Costs to Apply

    If a student applies to between five and six schools, they will likely pay $280-$336 on application fees alone. Applying to public universities is slightly cheaper than applying to private institutions. On average, it costs $53 to apply to a public college and $67 to apply to a private college as a United States citizen.

  3. PDF Understanding application fees & fee waivers

    An application fee is a payment you make to a college upon submitting your application. Each . program in the Common App for transfer can choose their own application fee, and many ... A fee waiver lets you apply to a college without paying an application fee. The Common App . wants to make sure that application fees aren't a barrier for any ...

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    Each year, more than 1 million students apply to more than 1,000 Common App member colleges worldwide through our online college application platform. Learn more about applying through our first-year application by following our step-by-step guide below. Create a Common App account. 1. Gather materials. 2.

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    What does the Common App cost? The platform itself is free to use, but every college charges their own application processing fee (usually $30 to $75 for U.S. applicants and more for international applicants). ... Follow these steps to apply to college through the Common Application. 1. Create a Common App account. All you need is an e-mail ...

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    Common Application or apply Coalition, Powered by Scoir. Harvard College Questions for the Common Application, or Coalition Application Harvard supplement. $85 fee (or request a fee waiver) SAT or ACT (with or without writing) - optional for 2022-2026 application cycles. Optional: AP or other examination results. For first-year:

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    Almost half of all Common App colleges do not charge an application fee. You can use the application fee search filters in the College Search tab to find those schools. Many colleges also offer a college-specific fee waiver. You can contact colleges directly or look for a fee waiver question on their application in the My Colleges tab.

  19. PDF Understanding application fees & fee waivers

    to submit your application without a fee while your counselor confirms. Keep in mind, the Common App Fee Waiver isn't the only fee waiver available to you. Many . colleges also offer their own application fee waiver, specific to their school. Be sure to check . with each college to understand their own fee waiver policies. 400K+ applicants ...

  20. Applying to Gettysburg

    Step 1: Log in to the Common App. Gettysburg College accepts the Common Application, so the first step in the application process is to create a Common App account-or log into an existing account. Once you're logged in, be sure to add Gettysburg College to your "My Colleges" list. This will give you access to the Gettysburg College ...

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