Applying to grad school can be expensive! Fortunately, some schools offer application fee waivers. They can be hard to get, but every $60 or $70 less helps. Here’s how I got fee waivers from 3 of the 8 schools I applied to. The best advice is: always ask! Call or email the admissions office, even if you don’t think the school offers a fee waiver.
Note: When it comes to fee waivers, being in certain groups is a bonus. If your group is underrepresented in academia, waivers easier to get (well, something’s got to make up for centuries of oppression!) If you got a fee waiver for the GRE (and do ask about a waiver for the GRE), it’s much easier to get them from schools, even the fancy ones.
Schools 1-5: No Waivers
The main role of application fees (in my mind) is to make sure only determined people will apply. So some very prestigious schools will have high fees with little chance of waivers. Oh, well. Additionally, the schools I applied to that had fees of $50 or less didn’t offer waivers at all. Two listed this on their websites, while I had to email an admissions rep to find out at another school.
School 6: Letter from Financial Aid Officer
One school listed very specifically the process for getting a fee waiver. You had to meet certain qualifications and have a letter from a financial aid officer saying you met those qualifications. At first, my financial aid office wavered because of their policy of not releasing information on students. Once I explained that the letter only had to say I met the qualifications, the rest was easy. She sent the letter to me and I forwarded it to the school with a cover letter. I’m applying to [program] and am requesting a fee waiver. Enclosed is a letter stating I meet the qualifications. The school emailed me the next week.Note: make sure you do this in advance of deadlines to provide enough time for all these letters to go around.
School 7: Mystery Waivers
Unlike School 6, another school was unclear about whether fee waivers even existed. The website just said to call the admissions office. I did, and the woman who answered gave me an email address. She wouldn’t say if there were fee waivers, just that I should email a certain man. I did, and asked him whether there were fee waivers. Apparently, there were, because he asked why I wanted one. A brief (well-worded) email explanation, and I’m in fee waiver heaven! I’m still not sure what qualifications I met or whether he was just in a good mood that day. In any case, persistence won out.
School 8: Fee Waiver Program
Some schools are part of networks to encourage people from underrepresented groups to apply to graduate school. One of those groups is CIC FreeApp. I’m happy to say that registering with them will get you a fee waiver to all of the schools in their network. I’m now getting mail from a program at Indiana University I would never apply to (M.F.A, anyone?) but I don’t have to pay $60. Comb the school websites to see if they’re in any similar programs.
Final disclaimer: I’m not saying these methods are guaranteed. But if you qualify and do a little extra work, fee waivers can make applying to grad school just a little bit cheaper.