How to Apply to US Colleges for Free

by | Jun 7, 2023 | Admissions

Applying to college in the US can be quite expensive. While college application fees vary from institution to institution, you can expect to pay an average of $45 per application.

Some of the most selective and prestigious universities can charge as much as $100 per application. On the other hand, some less competitive schools and community colleges may charge as low as $25 in application fees.

If you’re applying to multiple schools, application fees can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars. You might be wondering if you can apply to US colleges for free as an international student.

You’re in luck.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can apply to US colleges for free. Let’s start by explaining what college application fees is and what it’s used for.


What is College Application Fees?

College application fees are fees charged by colleges and universities to process and review applications for admission.

When applying to colleges in the US, prospective students are typically required to submit an application along with supporting documents such as transcripts, test scores, essays, and recommendation letters. These applications go through a thorough review process by the admissions office to assess the applicant’s qualifications, achievements, and fit for the institution.

To cover the administrative costs associated with processing applications, colleges and universities often charge a fee. This fee helps offset the expenses related to reviewing applications, conducting evaluations, and managing the overall admissions process.

It’s important to note that paying the application fee does not guarantee admission to the institution. It is simply a requirement for the application to be considered.

2 Ways to Apply to Colleges in the US for Free

There are two ways you can apply to colleges in the US for free as an international student:

Below, let’s explore these options in more detail.

Option #1- Ask for an Application Fee Waiver

Some schools offer fee waivers for students who demonstrate financial need or for specific circumstances. Fee waivers can exempt applicants from paying the application fee.

The good news is that international students can also qualify for application fee waivers. Having your application fee waiver request approved means that you can send in your application for free.


Check whether the university you’re interested in offers application fee waivers to students who need it. If they do, carefully read their application fee waiver policy document to make sure that you meet the requirements. Lastly, fill out the application fee waiver form and attach all the required documents.

Option #2- Apply to Colleges that Don’t Charge Application Fees

Fortunately, not all universities and colleges in the US require their students, including international students, to pay application fees. Many universities in the United States and other top study destinations offer application-fee-free options.

These institutions may choose to waive application fees in order to attract a diverse pool of applicants and make the application process more accessible to students from various backgrounds.

However, even where application fee isn’t required, there may still be other expenses associated with the application process. These expenses may include:

  • Standardized test fees: Costs related to standardized college entrance tests like the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT.
  • English proficiency test fees: Expenses associated with English proficiency tests such as the TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Transcript translation and certification fees: Fees for translating and certifying academic transcripts if they are not in the language of the institution or if they require additional verification.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that tuition fees for international students are often higher compared to those for domestic students. Before submitting applications, it’s important to research and understand the total costs associated with attending the college or university.

Below is a list of some leading US universities that don’t charge application fees. Go through the list and research the universities to find the ones most aligned with your academic and professional goals. Doing so will help you create a shortlist of universities to apply to in the US without application fees.

Bear in mind that application fee policies may change. Therefore, it’s advisable to verify application fee information directly with each institution.

  1. Wellesley College
  2. Carleton College
  3. Yale University
  4. Smith College
  5. Case Western Reserve University
  6. Grinnell College           
  7. Tulane College
  8. Colby College
  9. Macalester College
  10. Reed College
  11. Kenyon College
  12. Colorado College
  13. Depaul University
  14. Trinity University
  15. Denison University
  16. St Louis University
  17. Rhodes College
  18. Union College
  19. Illinois Wesleyan College
  20. Drake University
  21. St Olaf College
  22. College of Wooster
  23. Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  24. Lawrence University
  25. Baylor University
  26. Ursinus College
  27. Ohio Wesleyan University
  28. Michigan Technological University
  29. Southwestern University
  30. Beloit College
  31. Hampshire College
  32. Transylvania University

If you need financing to fill funding gaps for your studies in the US, 8B is here to help. You can apply for an international student loan without a cosigner or collateral.

Join the 8B Community to network with other African students in global universities. 


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