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MIT staff blogger Bryan G. Nance

Does MIT Offer Application Fee Waivers? by Bryan G. Nance

In a word, yes. Click through for the extended answer.

Does MIT Offer Application Fee Waivers? In a word, yes.

As a matter of philosophy, MIT is committed to the idea of equal access to higher education for everyone. It has been our experience that the cost of applying to MIT can be a barrier for those of modest financial means or those who are experiencing situational financial difficulties.

Why do we charge an application fee anyway?
Between staff time and materials, the costs of running an admissions office are vast, and the application fee only covers a small percentage of the costs associated with processing your application. The application fee also discourages those students who have no real interest in MIT from applying (the ones who do not wish to attend but just want to see if they can get in).

How do I know if I should request a fee waiver?
Your decision to request a fee waiver is not unlike the many parts of the admission process in that, here too, you are being held to the highest of ethical standards. Just as we expect you to not plagiarize your essay, we expect that you will not misrepresent your ability to pay the application fee.

It is safe to say that you should apply for an application fee waiver if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You receive free or reduced lunch at school
  • Your family receives public assistance
  • You meet the criteria set by the College Board as requirements for a fee waiver
  • Situational financial difficulties are currently imposing substantial or undue hardships upon your family

In many ways only you and your family truly know if applying for an application fee waiver is the right thing to do. We suggest that you start by respecting the intention of this process. There is a big difference between “I can’t afford to pay” and “I’d rather not pay.” If you’re not sure, we recommend consulting your Guidance Counselor, the College Board website, or other adults outside of your family who can help you to determine your need for a waiver.

Fee Waiver: Selfless Good or Selfish Bad?
I’ve spent the majority of this entry defining who should apply and why. Some of you may come away thinking that we offer this application fee wavier but don’t really want to give it out. Not true at all! But you do need to take the initiative here. Consider this lesson one about MIT: Self Advocacy. Ask any current or past student and he or she will tell you that those who are most successful at MIT are those who have no compunction about asking for help. If you need the waiver and don’t request one is that selfless good? No.

There are many scenarios which one can concoct as a reason for a fee waiver. Here are some examples on which we take a dim view:

  • I am applying to 25 schools and I can’t afford MIT’s application fee
  • I need the new 160-gig i-Pod
  • I need to save for the Senior Trip/Senior Prom

Um, no.

So what does all of this really mean? It’s simple: If you need a fee waiver for the right reasons and you request one, chances are very good that we’ll grant you one.

Action Steps for the Fee Waiver
You can write directly to MIT with a letter from your counselor or another school official requesting an application fee waiver. While that works for MIT, what about the other schools to which you are applying? Do you really want to write a bunch of different letters requesting a fee waiver?

Earlier I suggested that you visit the College Board site for general information and overall criteria for fee-waivers in general. While you are at the College Board site I suggest that you also register through the College Board itself for a fee waiver that will be accepted by most colleges. (MIT actually prefers the College Board form.)

33 responses to “Does MIT Offer Application Fee Waivers?”

  1. Abc says:

    Is this available for international students ?

  2. Farhad says:

    When I browsed the info regarding the application fee waiver at the College Board web site it said that in order to get the College Board application fee waiver thing I needed to have had a fee waiver on my registration fee for the tests too…. But that, in my case, is impossible for I’m an international applicant and we are not elegible for test fee waivers… Am I right? Say that’s the case, if I send a letter writen by the important people at my school… what should it contain? are there any guidelines? Or it should jus say’Farhad can’t pay the application fee for this presents a hardship on his family and in fact he is getting a scholarship from us?

  3. Vihang says:

    Thanks for that information.
    I was wondering why you haven’t blogged in a while.

    I’m waiting for more information on financial aid and the forms etc. that have to be filled.

  4. Sarthak says:

    Yeah, as Farhad says, international applicants are not eligible for the SAT Request for Waiver of College Application Fee forms. So, as it is, we (international applicants) have to pay the SAT and/or TOEFL testing fee (which is more for international students than for U.S. students).

    In my case, the testing cost alone is more than $230, which is a huge cost JUST for application. As I’m in India, there’s an additional stupid ‘security surcharge to test in India and Pakistan’ of $22. And I’m not exactly rich. Add to that, some universities don’t even offer application fee waivers for international applicants.

    So why is it that internationals are always at a disadvantage??

    Fortunately MIT offers application fee waivers for international students. But I think we all would like to know what should be exactly stated in the official waiver-requesting letter from our high school officials (which is the only way for international applicants to get the waiver).

  5. Vihang says:

    Another query.
    s there any deadline to send in the fee waiver after Part 1 of the application is submitted online?

    I’d like to submit Part 1 online right now so that I can go ahead with the interview, but it would be easier for me to send in the fee waiver with the other forms (transcripts etc.) that I will be mailing later. (Postage costs are not too favourable for some international students.)

  6. Hunter '11 says:

    I applied to 16 schools and didn’t ask for a fee waiver. YOU BETTER NOT EITHER.


  7. Hunter '11 says:

    Yeah, I was referring to the fact that you shouldn’t ask for a fee waiver because there are some people who actually need… but now that I think of it, don’t apply to 16 schools, either. Ten applications take away too much of your life.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Talking about financial difficulities or modest financial means, it is very kind of MIT to waive the application fee and then later offer all bill paid free MIT education to some students. My friends receiving full financil aid at MIT can affore spending $550.00 a month on their meals, dining at good restaurants, while I, also going to MIT, coming from middle class family, have to try very hard to limit my meal expense under $180.00 a month in order not to burden my parents too much. MIT offers them flight ticket money to go home for holidays, while I have to wait until Dec 26 to fly home and have to miss the Christmas Eve with family for a cheaper flight fair. I sometimes feel like to be the students in need.

  9. Hunter '11 says:

    I wish colleges (not just MIT – I hear this about many colleges) would take into account more things. It seems the only way to get through college without sinking into debt is to either be so rich that you can pay, or so lacking that the college pays for you. People in the middle class (lower-middle to upper-middle) are in the worst place because they’re well off enough to not “need” money according to CollegeBoard and the like, but they can’t afford college…

  10. Anonymous says:

    What about the myth that the admissions people don’t pay that much attention to your application if you use a fee waiver.

    I am applying this year and can’t afford to attend MIT without financial aid but paid the application fee…i applied last year also and used a fee waiver…

  11. Ana says:

    One more post for the international applicants needing a fee waiver. I felt so bad when reading this entry about asking fee waivers, because I don’t qualify in any of the reasons above. My family is somewhere at the bottom of the middle class in my country. We don’t receive any kind of outside aid, but we don’t really miss anything vital. Probably a reason is that life or educational expenses are A LOT lower in my country than in the United States. However, when my parents were faced with the college costs in the US, they told me there is no way they can afford such a price. Unless I receive (almost) full ride, I doubt I can come and study at MIT or elsewhere in the States. Is it ethical for me to apply for a fee waiver?

  12. Anonymous says:

    A friend at MIT told my other friends that he hates the oily, not very healthy food at the dorm dining halls. Besides, salads, sandwiches or western style foods are simply not his food at all. He only likes “authentic” Chinese or Thai food. Therefore dining at the different Chinese, Korean and Thai restaurants off campus is a survival “must” for him. His average meal fee a month is around $550. He has all the luxury because he gets all the grants and financial aids from MIT, with $0 parent contribution, $0 student contribution.(He managed to get rid of the $1,500 student contribution. How? Nobody knows! Ask him!) He is planning to go to London during the winter break though he is not originally from England. As a sophomore, he said he did not spend all the money MIT has given him since freshman year so he can afford a decent trip to London. Is MIT really too generous to the “needy” students? How about to us? My parents are in deep debt for sending me to MIT. Sigh! I carefully calculate every dollar I have to spend!

  13. Anonymous says:


    This sophomore is also my friend. (Personally I don’t have any problem with him.) He does not feel any thing wrong when he spends generously the money MIT gives to him. He told me personally only hot, herat-warming Chinese food can satisfy him. Sometimes, for a change, he can accept Thai food.

    He had two summer jobs at MIT this past summer. MIT should know it very well. He is supposed to have his student contribution around $2,200 this year according to the scale for sophomore students, but he went to talk to somebody and he resolved even this part. I am not exaggerating. Open your eyes and you will see he is here on campus.

  14. Anonymous says:


    His parents receive all the benefit from the government, meaning his parents don’t pay a penny to MIT either. The whole family has all the available aids. He does not need to send home the money he receives from MIT, does he? He said MIT is a lot easier to receive full ride than CalTech and is encouraging his sister to go for MIT next year too.

  15. Oasis says:

    “It seems the only way to get through college without sinking into debt is to either be so rich that you can pay, or so lacking that the college pays for you.”

    I think you don’t have to be absolutely lacking in order for the college to pay for your education. I don’t think you have to “sink into debt” to go to college, because if you are sinking into debt, then your expected family contribution is obviously bigger than what your family can actually afford to pay. Then, perhaps you should revise your financial aid application.

    MIT is very generous with its financial aid its admitted students. The Institute often tries to meet the full demonstrated need of the student. Out of all the schools that I applied to aid for (not all 15 colleges [by the way: DON’T apply to 15 colleges…] that applied to – that’s way too much work), MIT gave me the best financial aid package.

    I think MIT tries to make a point that money should not be hindrance in your education, but you have to be honest about your needs.

  16. JR says:

    MIT gave me the best financial aid package.

    This is true for me too.

    As for the bragger above…Don’t try to make us jealous. It isn’t nice.

    It never hurts to apply for the waiver, right? Then do it, if you think you’re a good candidate for it.

  17. lulu says:


    Rule of third hand heresay is skepticism. I wouldn’t doubt for a second that that story is grossly exaggerated. If it is true, then the student should have trouble looking his parents in the eye- their need is what determined their aid.

  18. Hunter '11 says:

    I’ll agree with you that MIT definitely offers one of the better financial packages based on need, but realize that sometimes people still don’t get what they need. I was making a statement about college financial aid in general that doesn’t apply to MIT in the fullest sense.

  19. Sanja says:

    I am international applicant and yes, I need a fee waiver. Is there any way to obtain one if I apply online?

  20. Anonymous says:

    MIT’s financial aid is fair, I wouldn’t say generous. They are going to give you what you need to get through school, but before they give you grants, you have take our what they consider a fair amount in loans each year (around $5000).

    No one should complain about families of the working class getting financial aid to attend. But at the same time families from the middle to upper-middle class do have legitimate concerns: it is more burdensome in practical terms for a family making $100,000 to send their children to college than for a family making $60,000.

    Some people would respond that life isn’t fair, and it certainly isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we should accept injustice–whether its to kids from the middle class or kids from the working class.

  21. Manders '13 says:

    Question: How much is the application fee in the first place?

  22. rofl says:


    Do you actually think that if Lulu opens her eyes and pays attention eyes she will see your friend on campus??

  23. Sceth says:


    It is alright to send in the waiver with transcripts and other paper thingies. Just ensure that it reaches with them decently early. Like any piece of the application, you can view the status of your fee-waiver on the track portal. Just like a teacher recommendation, it can acceptably reach [reasonably] late. Nevertheless, be sure that it reaches before reading starts in earnest. Otherwise the application will be incomplete!
    For international applicants, the fee waiver is necessarily a paper thingy, so it is much more likely that internationals might have to call in to get the staff to take another look in the envelope and make sure that it’s really there.

    Source: Experience.

  24. Ben says:

    It’s iPod, not i-Pod. smile

    Just kidding (though Apple is super-cranky about it). This was a masterfully informative post, and I reall appreciate you providing some relevant information to the applicant pool. Thanks!

    -Ben “The MIT Fanboy” Goering-

  25. Hunter '11 says:

    Parent – I’m in a similar boat is your daughter. I turned down a lot of good schools and scholarships, including a full ride at WPI, for MIT. I too am not coming home for Thanksgiving, which is disappointing, and we didn’t get much from MIT – but I think it’s all worth it in the end.

    I can still, however, complain about the fact that colleges should award more need-based money.

    (Hehe, I thought you were my dad or something at first because of how similar the situations are, but then you mentioned Yale, which I did not apply to..)

  26. Anonymous says:

    I never think I will be able to fly home for Thanksgiving. The best I can manage is to fly home on December 26 for an $83 to $122 less (cheaper) flight than flying between December 22 and 25. I also turned down Yale, Duke, Rice (merit-based full ride)and U Penn for MIT. That’s my choice. I am not regretful but just try to be very thrifty. I have two younger brothers coming right up. MIT gives me loan around $5,000 this year. My parents got some other loans for sending me to MIT. I am thankful and don’t think being tight on meals and other stuff is suffering. I am actually very proud and overjoy, that I can curb my last month’s whole expense under $180, including spending on a fan and a desk lamp. My parents don’t make me promise to be frugal. I want them to know I realize how hard they are going through for supporting my choice to go to MIT.

    Oh, well, I just feel a little unfair.

  27. Manders, it is $65 USD, if I’m not mistaken.

  28. Vihang says:

    @ Sceth:
    Thanks for the advice.

  29. Parent says:

    It is true that MIT is incredibly expensive for middle-class families; however, if you are strong enough to gain serious consideration for admission at MIT, you will undoubtedly discover that all sorts of schools will offer you merit scholarships. Our family did not qualify for any sort of aid apart from loans, although our daughter applied for financial aid when she applied to MIT. In the end, our daughter turned down Yale (it was several thousands of dollars cheaper per year, too!) and also turned down some terrific scholarship offers from other flagship, top-tier universities. MIT was her clear first choice, and we ultimately agreed. Because we live on the west coast, she can not fly home for Thanksgiving. She’s on a really tight budget. No big dinners out or fancy excursions. But this is part of the choice every student makes. For what it’s worth, she is incredibly happy and loves MIT. Good luck to all you applicants as you begin this process.

  30. sabreena says:

    I sort of have the same problem as Ana from India. I m also an international applicant but do not really qualify in either of the categories mentioned. Its not that I cannot manage $65 by any means but it might prove to be a heavy burden on top of saving for travelling and other associated costs, because my family does not have the ability of providing for my college if I dont end up wth a full ride:)

    and it would indeed be really helpful if it could be clarified exactly what must be written in the fee waiver application, i.e. do we need to include any statistical details??
    thank you very much Bryan for such a wonderful post.

  31. Good Evening All,

    Here are answers to some of your well worded questions.

    Q1. Is this available for international students ?
    A1. In a word yes.

    Q2. How much is the application fee in the first place?
    A2. non-refundable$65.00 (U.S. funds only)

    Q3. Is there any deadline to send in the fee waiver after Part 1 of the application is submitted online?
    A3. There is no deadline, but I really suggest that you send the fee with the Part 1 if at all possible. The same goes for a fee waiver request. Fee/Fee Waiver & Part 1’s tend to go together like peanut butter & Jelly or hummus and pita bread… you get the point.

    Q4. It would indeed be really helpful if it could be clarified exactly what must be written in the fee waiver application, i.e. do we need to include any statistical details??
    A4. I know that you are looking for the exact details that we are looking for in said fee waiver. Unfortunately, no exact prototype exists. You are individuals with family situations that vary accordingly. Just be honest about you situation and how it is causing financial difficulties or undue hardships upon your family. It realy is that simple. I don’t mean to be condesending at all. I apologize if I am coming across that way.

    If you are a domestic applicant, go to the Colleg Board and apply for a fee waiver. If you are an international applicant, talk with you counselor or family about your situation. Send us a letter with your Part 1 with the details of your situation and we will review it according. (By accordingly, I mean compassionately)

  32. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the wonderful blog!
    I have a question not really related to this topic –
    Under the Early Action plan, is it ok to apply early decision to another university (an Ivy League)?