What to Do If You Can’t Afford to Take the ACT or SAT

high school student photo

Photo by NWABR

One thing that comes as a shock to many students is that it costs money to take the ACT or SAT and some students can’t afford it.

In fact–it’s not cheap. It costs about $30-50 to take either test, depending on whether or not you include the optional writing portion. Plus, there are extra fees if you register after the first registration deadline.

For many students, this may seem like simply too much to afford.

The good news is that: No matter if you’re taking the ACT or the SAT, there are fee waivers available that allow you to take the test for free.

For the SAT or ACT, students can qualify for two free tests, plus additional waivers for SAT subject tests.

How to get a fee waiver

The first thing you need to do is contact your school counselor or an official counselor from a community organization, who can submit for a fee waiver on your behalf.

It’s important to know that you cannot apply for the fee waiver independently.

Your counselor or other contact person will have you complete a form to apply for a fee waiver if they believe you’re eligible.

Who qualifies for ACT/SAT fee waivers

Both the ACT and College Board (SAT) will evaluate your application to determine if you qualify to receive a fee waiver.

These exact requirements sometimes change, but in general students will qualify by meeting some basic criteria:

  • Receive free/reduced lunch program
  • Receive state or federal public assistance (food assistance, etc)
  • Receive federally subsidized housing, are a foster child, or homeless

How to use an ACT/SAT fee waiver

Once applying for and receiving a fee waiver, you can apply it either through paper applications or online by entering the special code that you’re given, which will apply the discount to your registration fees.

You should receive your waiver code once your application is approved.

Limitations on fee waivers

As mentioned previously, fee waivers are available to students who qualify and students can receive a maximum of two waivers–meaning any additional testing will need to be paid at regular cost.

There are other limitations related to the fee waivers. Namely, students must register on time in order to apply the waiver, and if the student is waitlisted for a specific testing date, they won’t be able to use the waiver.

ACT and SAT fee waivers cover only the base cost of testing (plus the cost of the optional writing portion), but if there are any additional fees or costs associated with the specific test date or exam the student wishes to take, they will need to be paid separately.

There’s more information and additional resources for students who need fee waivers on the ACT and College Board websites.

Learn more about ACT fee waivers.

Learn more about SAT fee waivers.