Do testing costs present a barrier in your path to college? You may be eligible for an ACT fee waiver, which waives the cost of taking the ACT! This article will help you figure out whether or not you’re eligible to receive an ACT fee waiver form. We’ll also discuss what it covers and what it doesn't, and the steps you need to take to waive the fees as you register for the ACT.
First, let’s look at who is eligible for an ACT fee waiver.
ACT Fee Waiver Eligibility Criteria
- You must be enrolled in high school in the 11th or 12th grade.
- You must be a U.S. citizen OR an international student testing in the U.S., U.S. territories, or Puerto Rico.
- You must meet ONE or more of the indicators of economic need listed below:
- You’re enrolled in a federal free or reduced-price lunch program at school, based on USDA income levels (see table below).
- You’re enrolled in a program for the economically disadvantaged (for example, a federally funded program such as GEAR UP or Upward Bound).
- You reside in a foster home, are a ward of the state, or are homeless.
- Your family receives low-income public assistance or lives in federally subsidized public housing.
- Your family’s total annual income is at or below the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) levels for free or reduced-price lunches listed below
USDA Income Level Guidelines
|Members in Household||Total Annual Income|
(Members in Household includes the filer).
If you’re not on Free and Reduced Lunch but meet one of the other requirements, you may have to provide documentation, like tax records, to support your eligibility. Now that you know whether or not you’re eligible, let’s look closer at exactly what the ACT fee waiver does and does not cover.
What the ACT Fee Waiver Covers
The fee waiver covers the basic registration fee for the ACT (No Writing) or the ACT (Plus Writing). If you’re eligible, you can get a maximum for two waivers, so you will be able to take the ACT for free twice.
With a fee waiver, you can also waive the fee to send one score report to your high school and up to four score reports to colleges. Fee waivers are valid through August 31st each year. This means you may have to get one in junior year and the other in senior year.
Speak with your guidance counselor to learn exactly how your school handles fee waiver distribution.
What the ACT Fee Waiver doesn’t Cover
The ACT fee waiver does not cover late registration fees if you register past the stated deadline. It also does not cover changes in your registration, such as changes to your test date, test center, or test option (writing or not writing), or a standby fee if you wish to be put on a waitlist.
As mentioned above, the fee waiver will cover four score reports to colleges. Any additional score reports will have to be paid for - they are each $12.
Finally, a fee waiver can only be used once for registration. If you miss the test you signed up for, you can’t use the same fee waiver again. So make sure you don’t miss your test!
Steps you Need to Take
Speak with your school counselor. Counselors receive the fee waivers, and they are responsible for getting fee waivers to their students.
This doesn’t mean you should wait for them to come to you, however. In order to design your testing plan, you should get this taken care of early, like in the beginning of junior year or before. This way you can make sure you have the fee waiver and can plan when to take your two ACT tests.
When you register for the ACT, you will enter the serial number printed in the top right corner of your fee waiver form. This is your ACT fee waiver code.
If there are any additional charges not covered by the fee waiver, like extra services or test date changes, you will have to pay these by credit card before you can finish registration. Otherwise your registration for the ACT No Writing or ACT Plus Writing will be completely free of charge!
Test Tips if you’re Using a Fee Waiver
Preparation is the number one factor to improving your ACT scores, but you want to make sure you’re prepping right. By this we mean you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, use high quality materials, set manageable goals, and understand the format and skills being tested. Check out our free EBook for the 5 important tips all students need to know to master the ACT.
As we mentioned above, make sure you are signing up for a test date and center you that works for you. You can’t re-use the same fee waiver should you miss your test, so you definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to test free of testing fees.
If you are limited to taking the ACT twice (since you can get a maximum of two fee waivers), you want to design your testing plan around this fact. Almost all students improve their score more times they take the test, and many colleges will superscore your ACT score, or consider your highest section scores across all dates and calculate your strongest composite score.
If you are taking the test twice, it would benefit you to study using practice tests under simulated testing conditions. By timing yourself, taking short breaks, and even practicing on Saturday morning the way you would the real test, you can get used to the pacing and stamina you need to perform your best on the real ACT.
You also want to find out about your fee waivers well in advance so you can figure out your optimal test dates. Many students test in the spring of junior year and again in early fall of senior year. With careful planning and customized preparation, you can maximize your two testing opportunities.
To Sum Up...
To make sure you have access to your fee waivers well ahead of registration for your preferred test dates, definitely communicate with your school counselor. He/she has the fee waivers and is there to support you through the college process. Don’t wait until senior year, as that will be too late to take the ACT twice.
Check out our free resources to learn all about the ACT and design your personal study plan.
Do you know exactly how long the ACT is? Get familiar with the timing and pacing of the test.
Aiming for perfection? Read tips and strategies from a 36 full scorer - helpful for improving scores at any level.
Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.
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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.