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Applying for college can be expensive. Here's how to save

Key Points
  • As college costs rise, some students apply to a laundry list of schools to increase their odds of getting into one they can afford.
  • Yet doing so can leave families with another large tab.
  • Here's how to save. 
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As college costs rise, some students apply to a laundry list of schools to increase their odds of getting into one they can afford. Yet doing so can leave families with another large tab.

"Application fees quickly add up to thousands of dollars if you apply to dozens of colleges," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of SavingforCollege.com.

The average college application costs around $50, according to SavingForCollege.com. At some colleges you can expect to pay much more — Stanford University's application fee, for example, is $90.

A third of students apply to six or more colleges, and 15% apply to 10 or more.

Families should decide on a budget for college applications — say, $250, says Kantrowitz. That will not only help keep costs under control but also force students to whittle down their list of schools. "Students should craft their college lists carefully, identifying a small set of colleges where they have a good chance of being admitted," he added.

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Some colleges will let you skip the application fee if you demonstrate merit or financial need. CollegeBoard has a list of schools that accept application-fee waivers. The National Association of College Admission Counseling has a form you can use to request the waiver.

Many colleges will waive their application fee if you apply online.

SavingforCollege.com has a list of colleges with no application fee, including Smith College and Tulane University. Community colleges typically don't charge application fees, either.

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Key Points
  • Middle-class Americans are less optimistic about their economic prospects than they were just six months ago, according to a new report.
  • "This should be a wake-up call to families to start shoring up their finances now," says Steven Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group.