Question: Can you tell me about application fee waivers and how I can get them?
There are several ways to get a fee waiver when applying to college. If you come from a low-income family and feel that paying an application fee would be a hardship, then you can get your application fee waived by most colleges. You need to include with each application a signed statement from your guidance counselor which confirms that you and your family cannot afford to pay application fees. Some colleges include fee-waiver forms with their applications; some high schools have their own forms or use those provided by the National Association for College Admission Counseling or by the College Board. However, it doesn't really matter how or where the request is written. Your counselor can simply jot a note on school stationery if he or she doesn't have an official fee-waiver document.
While colleges rarely provide hard-and-fast guidelines stating who is eligible and who is not, typically it is families with a household income under about $40,000. However, depending on the size of the family and various extenuating circumstances, that figure can fluctuate, and eligibility is generally left to the discretion of the guidance counselor.
The point of fee waivers is to ease a student's burden due to financial hardship, and they are not meant for those who simply don't feel like shelling out the extra dough, so only make the request if you truly need to. (Every once in a while, admission officials catch a student using a fee waiver who doesn't deserve one, and this can impact admission outcomes.)
If you don't have financial hardship, there are still sometimes other ways to wiggle out of the application fee. For instance, a growing number of colleges and universities will waive their fees for those who apply online. Some schools also give waivers to students who attend various on-campus programs, whose parents are alumni, who won an award sponsored by that college, etc. Feel free to check with the colleges on your list to see what fee-waiver options exist.