The SAT is expensive — that’s no secret. $52 to take a test that may or may not get you into college is hard to swallow. You can buy so many things with $52 that its hard to be excited about spending that on a test that you probably won’t even have fun taking. It can be stressful to figure out how you’re going to afford the SAT, especially if you end up needing to take it more than once. But don’t despair! I’m going to show you how to take the SAT for free!

What’s better than free? Ice cold . . . wait. Nothing. Nothing is better than free.

Everyone knows higher education can cost an arm and a leg, especially if you come from a less-privileged area of the country, or even another country. Luckily, College Board recognizes the difficulty some students have affording everything they need to get accepted into college, and they’ve put together a way to waive SAT fees, score report fees and even some application fees, in order to give everyone a fighting chance at college.

Ultimately, everyone should be entitled to a chance at higher education, and College Board has a system that will allow some low-income students to take the SAT for free. The process includes applying for a fee waiver, which I’ll go over in a bit. First, lets talk about exactly what it means to be awarded a fee waiver.

What Do Fee Waivers Cover?

The great news is that fee waivers don’t just cover the SAT exam itself, so if you go through the trouble of applying, it’ll be worth the effort. Fee waivers cover two attempts at the SAT, as well as two QAS (Question-and-Answer Service) or SAS (Student Answer Service) reports. The fee waiver sets you up to succeed and boost your score in between takes by using the score reports. You can target your weak areas and practice before you retake the SAT the second time (for free, I might add). Students who aren’t granted fee waivers are required to pay $52 per attempt at the SAT, which adds up fast.

In addition, SAT fee waivers offer some benefits when it comes time to apply to college!

For example, unlimited score reports to send to colleges you apply to are included in a fee waiver. Typically, students who take the SAT get a set number of score reports to send for free, and after they reach the limit, they have to pay for each score report. Students who are granted a fee waiver can send as many score reports as their heart desires to wherever their heart desires at no personal cost to them. This is invaluable and could greatly increase your chance for college acceptance. The more schools you apply to, the greater your chances are of getting accepted somewhere.

Also, College Board has partnered with several colleges to include waived application fees if you qualify for an SAT fee waiver. You can check out a full list of participating colleges on College Board’s website. They also offer free CSS profile applications to apply for financial aid at certain participating schools.

Lastly, fee waivers include fee reductions for score verification reports. You’ll only need this if there’s a discrepancy with your score, but it’s nice that a reduced fee is built into your fee waiver, just in case you need it. If you’re an international student, you’ll also avoid regional fees if you’re awarded a fee waiver, and there will be no late registration fees for a free test (so long as you’re in the US). The fee waiver covers so much, it’s definitely worth any effort you put in to get it. 


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What Is Not Covered in the Fee Waiver?

The main thing the fee waiver will not cover is the cost of changing your registration date for the SAT. If plans change and you have to switch test dates or testing centers, the fee waiver will not cover that. It take a lot of planning to administer the SAT, so when things change, it can complicate operations. As a result, you will be charged a fee for changing your test date or location.

In addition, you will also be responsible for any fees associated with requesting rush scores or receiving scores by phone. The best way to avoid extra fees you aren’t planning on is to plan ahead and stick to it.

Am I Eligible to Take the SAT for Free?

SAT fee waivers are reserved for low-income high school Juniors and Seniors, so if you’re in 10th grade and really trying to plan ahead by starting early, you won’t qualify to take the SAT for free just yet. However, there are several official free practice tests available for you to gauge where you’re at before committing the $52 to the real thing. Practice tests are always a great way to prepare and practice, and like I said, they’re free too!

You’re automatically eligible for SAT fee waivers if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You are eligible for the National School Lunch Program.
  • You’re enrolled in government programs that aid low-income families/students such as Upward
  • You are in Bound or other Federal TRIO programs.
  • Your family’s annual income is within the income eligibility guidelines set by USDA ($49,025 for a family of four).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You’re homeless or live in the foster system.
  • You’re a ward of the state or an orphan.

Unfortunately, if you don’t fall into any of the above qualifications, you probably won’t get to take the SAT for free. It’s not the end of the world, though: think of it as an investment in your future! The fee waivers are typically reserved for students who absolutely need help affording the SAT rather than a sweet deal you can get just for applying.

Where Do I Get an SAT Fee Waiver?

If you do qualify for an SAT fee waiver, your school will determine your eligibility and distribute fee waivers from there. If you’re homeschooled, some community-based organizations may distribute fee waivers as well; it depends on your specific circumstances. If you’ve already been awarded a fee waiver, you do not need another one. College Board’s website is a great resource to use if you need help, and their FAQ page is very helpful.

Your school usually receives a certain number of fee waivers depending on how many they received last semester. Your school can request more fee waivers by calling the SAT Educator Helpline. Fee waivers aren’t something just anyone can get, though. They are reserved for those who need them the most, which is why your school holds the power of who is awarded a waiver.

Waive(ing) Goodbye to This Blog Post

Stop rolling your eyes — that’s a good heading. In closing, fee waivers exist to help students who genuinely cannot afford the SAT. SAT or ACT scores are absolutely necessary for acceptance at most colleges, and they significantly increase your chances of admission at most test optional schools. The fees for the test, the score reports and sending your scores to colleges can add up quickly, and if you don’t have the money to pay for those things, you won’t be able to prove how smart you are to all the awesome colleges you’re applying to.

College Board wants to give everyone a fighting chance at a good SAT score and college acceptance, regardless of the student’s financial situation. The amount of money you or your family has does not define you. You can still rock the SAT and get into the college of your dreams, even if the fees aren’t doable for you right now.

Speaking of free, we’ve created one of the most useful free SAT prep pages on the planet.

Kirsten Mann
Kirsten is the Operations Coordinator at Test Geek. She has a 35 on the ACT Reading Test and enjoys sarcasm and pop culture references.

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