We just sent my second “baby” off to her first year of college. We now have two babies in college. Yikes! We anticipated it would be expensive to send our kids off to college, but like most parents, we wondered “How much does it cost to apply to college?” Now that we’ve finished the college application process twice, we have a pretty good idea of how much it really costs to apply to college.
Before we went through the college application process twice, I had no idea how much it would cost to apply to college. We were so involved in the application process with my first baby that I didn’t pay very close attention to the cost (but I did know that I seemed to writing checks and charging fees left and right). I made a point to pay close attention with my second baby’s application process. Your costs will vary depending upon what colleges and programs your baby applies to, what distances you travel and what other options you choose to use.
How Much Does It Cost to Apply to College
SAT & ACT Tests – $45 for SAT
$57 for SAT with Essay
ACT with writing $56.50
SAT Subject Test $26 registration + $20 per test or $26 per language with listening
Some college accept only the SAT or only the ACT. You may find that your student feels more comfortable and does better on one test than the other one. You won’t know that until your student takes each test at least once. Then you’ll want to take the test your student prefers or needs at least one more time. That means that for most students, they’ll take exams a minimum of three times. Some student take exams five or more times. Be sure your student takes the exam needed for the colleges he is applying to and that may mean that he has to take both.
Test Taking Preparation Materials – SAT prep book $20, ACT prep book $26, SAT Subject Test Prep $5 – $16
Test Taking Preparation Classes – $300 – $1000
You can borrow test taking materials from many high school libraries and local libraries for free. Be aware that the test taking materials are in demand a couple of months before test taking time, so don’t wait until the last minute. There are free practice materials for tests if you check online.
We found it most useful to have each of my babies take the SAT once and ACT once. They then decided which test they felt more comfortable with and we determined which test they did better on. Then they focused on test preparation for that specific exam. We found an online preparation class they could each take (interestingly, one focused on the SAT and one focused on the ACT).
Send Test Scores to Colleges
SAT Test Scores – $12
ACT Test Scores – $12 – $16.50
Sure each time your student takes the exam, she can designate schools to receive her scores. Unless you and your student clearly know the four schools that she will apply each time she takes an exam, you’ll find that you have to pay to send test scores to some number of colleges. Also, if your student chooses to apply to more than four college, you’ll be paying to send test scores.
College application fees range from $50 – $90
Depending on which colleges your student applies to and the total number he applies to, your application fees can range from $100 – $900 or more.
Send High School Transcripts
I had no idea that our public high school would charge to send my babies’ high school transcripts to colleges. At our school, it costs $3 per transcript. That’s not a lot, but it does add up depending on how many transcripts you have to send.
Driving to Testing and Interviews
You’ll have to pay for gas and possibly parking and tolls to get to testing locations. Some colleges conduct interviews as part of their application process. Again, it will cost you gas and possibly parking and tolls.
Driving to Auditions and Try-outs
Some colleges and some degrees require on-site auditions or try-outs. Depending on the geographic distance and location of the college, you can pay any or all of the following: gas, tolls, parking, train fare, airline tickets, hotel, food, subway fare and taxi fare.
Fee for Filing for Financial Aid
To find out if you qualify for financial aid, you’ll have to complete either the FAFSA or the CSS Profile. While there is no fee to complete the FAFSA, many schools require you complete the CSS Profile. The CSS costs $25 for the first school and $16 for each additional school.
We found that we had to complete both the FAFSA and the CSS because different schools have different requirements. I can’t even calculate the the cost of the hours (of frustration) we spent filling out both of those forms. But if you’re hoping to receive financial aid, you don’t have another option and you’ll be filling out whatever forms those schools ask you to.
Since financial aid was a consideration in deciding which colleges they would attend, we had to send the CSS to several colleges even though each of my babies would only attend one college.
Mailing Personal Documents
You’ll be required to send personal tax documents to the college to determine if you qualify for financial aid. Because we’ve experienced identity theft, we didn’t feel comfortable simply faxing our personal information to a fax machine sitting who-knows-where with who-knows-who walking by. We chose to send our personal documents by registered mail, which cost approximately $15 each.
Again, since we had to fill out financial aid documents for multiple colleges so my babies could compare financial aid packages, we spent approximately $45 for each of my babies.
Depending on how far the colleges are located from you, you’ll pay for any or all of the following: gas, tolls, parking, train fare, airline tickets, hotel, food, subway fare and taxi fare. Factor in how many different visits you’ll be making.
College Presentations in Your Area
Many colleges make presentations at locations around the country. While it may be less expensive to attend one of the regional presentations, you’ll still pay for any or all of the following: gas, tolls, parking, train fare, airline tickets, hotel, food, subway fare and taxi fare. Again, factor in how many individual presentations you’ll attend.
Example – How Much Does It Cost to Apply to College
The average student applies to 6 – 8 colleges. Let’s assume that our example student is applying to 5 colleges and taking the SAT/ACT exams a total of 4 times.
Average Total Spent – $1353.25
SAT & ACT Tests – $57
Assuming 4 exams taken (average cost per test of $14.25)
Test Taking Preparation Materials – $46
Assuming two test books (one for the SAT and one for the ACT)
Test Taking Preparation Classes – $650
One exam prep course at the average cost of $650
Pay to Send Test Scores to Colleges – $71.25
Average cost of $14.25
Application Fees – $350
Average cost of $70
Pay to Send High School Transcripts – $15
Using cost of $3 per transcript
Completing the CSS Profile – $89
Mailing Personal Documents – $75
Assuming $15 mailing cost
Driving to Testing and Interviews – ????
College Visits – ????
How much does it cost to apply to college? Gulp. Please be sure to contact your high school counselor and each college for assistance in fee waivers and other aid that you may qualify for.
What’s your experience with the cost of applying to college? Be sure to read our experience with the Unexpected Hidden Costs of College.
I’m a mom of 3, a veteran and military spouse. I’ve moved into 20+ homes all around the world. My passion is helping busy people make the space and time for what’s really important to them.