Paying for College

ACT Fee Waiver for Older Applicant?

Hi Dean, I've been out of school for 5 years and I'm planning to reapply for college but I just found out my ACT scores aren't any good anymore so I need to retake the test but I'm broke so I don't really have the money for the test fees so I was wondering if you might know if there was a cheaper test that colleges would accept or if I'd be eligible for some kind of fee waiver.

“The Dean" does not have great news, but perhaps there are some positives that you can extract from this. The ACT folks will only grant fee waivers to high school students and there isn't a cheaper test to replace it. BUT … if you contact the colleges that interest you, they may be willing to waive testing requirements for non-traditional students or even to allow you to submit your old ACT score although it's “expired."

But a big concern for “The Dean" is this:

If you're too broke to take the ACT, how can you afford college? The cost of the test, although unpleasant, is a drop in the bucket compared to what tuition, fees, housing, books, supplies, etc. will run you. Even with financial aid, you are going to have a lot of expenses that eclipse a test fee.

So your best bet may be to enroll in a community college and earn your Associates degree. Then, when you apply to transfer to a four-year school, you will not have to submit test scores. (And many colleges don't require tests from any transfer students, even if they haven't earned the Associates degree. But some do, so you'd need to check on the schools you're considering.)

I think it's great that you've decided to return to school after a hiatus. Professors tend to love older students, finding them more mature (duh!) and focused than most 18-year-olds. If your past academic record is strong (either from high school or from any college work you've done since) and if you are an attractive candidate for other reasons (e.g., extracurricular or employment achievements, atypical background) you may be able to cajole admission folks into making a testing exception for you and you might be able to wangle a spot at a college with top-shelf financial aid without having to take the community college route.

But, as you start off on this adventure, be sure you have a plan that will allow you to finance your education through its conclusion, and remember that paying for those ornery standardized tests is just the tip of the iceberg!