Do you feel like testing costs are presenting a barrier in your path to college? The good news is, you might be eligible for an ACT fee waiver, which waives the cost of taking the ACT.
In this article, we help you figure out whether you're eligible to get an ACT fee waiver form. We also discuss what the waiver covers and doesn't cover, as well as the steps you must take to use your fee waiver while registering for the ACT. But first, let's look at who is eligible for an ACT fee waiver.
ACT Fee Waiver Eligibility Criteria
In order to get an ACT fee waiver, you first need to check that you're eligible for one. Here is the criteria you must meet:
- Be enrolled in high school (11th or 12th grade)
- Be a U.S. citizen or an international student testing in the US, US territories, or Puerto Rico
- 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 (2020-21)
|Members in Household*||Total Annual Income|
|Each additional member||Plus $8,177 per member|
*Members in household include filer.
If you're not on Free and Reduced Lunch but meet one of the other requirements, you might have to provide documentation, such as tax records, to prove 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 doesn't cover in terms of costs.
What Does the ACT Fee Waiver Cover?
The ACT fee waiver covers the basic registration fee for either the ACT without Writing or the ACT with Writing. If you're eligible, you can get a maximum of two waivers, meaning you will be able to take the ACT for free twice.
Fee waivers are valid through August 31 each year, so you might have to get one waiver your junior year and the other your senior year. You can also waive the fee to send one score report to your high school and up to four score reports to colleges.
Speak with your guidance counselor to learn more about how your school handles ACT fee waiver distribution.
What Does the ACT Fee Waiver Not Cover?
The ACT fee waiver doesn't cover late registration fees if you register past the normal deadline. It also doesn't cover fees for changes in your registration, such as changes to your test date, test center, or test option (with or without Writing), or standby 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. Currently, they are $13 each.
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!
How to Get an ACT Fee Waiver
To get an ACT fee waiver, first speak with your school counselor. Counselors receive the fee waivers directly and are responsible for getting them to students.
This doesn't mean you should wait for your counselor to come to you, though. As you design your testing plan, get this taken care of early—ideally by the beginning of your junior year. This way you can confirm that you'll have the fee waiver before you choose a test date.
When you register for the ACT, you'll need to enter your ACT fee waiver code—i.e., the serial number printed in the top-right corner of your fee waiver form.
If you have any additional charges not covered by the fee waiver, such as extra services or test-date changes, you'll have to pay for these by credit card before you finish registering. If you don't have any other charges, your registration for the ACT will be completely free!
3 ACT Prep Tips If You're Using an ACT Fee Waiver
Before you take the ACT, you need to know how to prepare and study effectively in order to get a good score on test day. Here are three tips for those who have secured an ACT fee waiver:
#1: Prepare Ahead of Time
Preparation is the #1 factor to improving your ACT scores, but you need to make sure you're prepping right. This means you must do the following:
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses
- Use high-quality ACT prep materials
- Set manageable goals
- Understand the ACT format and the skills being tested
You can also check out our free ebook detailing the five most important tips all students need to know to master the ACT.
#2: Choose a Test Date and Center That Work Well for You
As we mentioned above, sign up for a test date and center that'll work for your schedule. You can't reuse the same ACT fee waiver should you miss your test, so it's critical to pick a place you won't have trouble getting to and a time you won't miss.
If you are limited to taking the ACT twice (since you can get a maximum of two fee waivers), you'll want to design your testing plan around this fact. Almost all students improve their ACT scores on a second attempt, and many colleges will superscore your ACT score (i.e., consider your highest section scores across all dates to calculate your strongest composite score).
In terms of optimal test dates, many students test in the spring of their junior year and again in the early fall of their senior year. With careful planning and customized preparation, you'll be able to maximize your two (free) ACT testing opportunities.
#3: Use Realistic Practice Tests
Whether you're taking the ACT once or twice, make sure to take official ACT practice tests under simulated testing conditions as you prep.
By timing yourself, taking short breaks, and even practicing on a Saturday morning (as you'll do on the real test), you'll gradually get used to the ACT's pacing and develop the stamina you need to perform your best on test day.
Recap: Getting and Using an ACT Fee Waiver
All in all, getting and using an ACT fee waiver is a pretty simple process, as long as you know where to start.
Before you apply for a fee waiver, check the ACT website to confirm that you are eligible. Then, talk to your counselor to get more information on how to apply and send one in.
The ACT fee waiver covers the full cost of the ACT (with or without Writing) but does not cover extra charges such as changes to your test date or test center. Note that you can get up to two fee waivers in total, and you can't use the same fee waiver for more than one test.
In terms of tips, make sure you have access to your fee waivers well ahead of registration for your preferred test date. Also, definitely communicate with your school counselor, as he or she will have access to the fee waivers and will be there to support you throughout the college process.
If you plan to get two ACT fee waivers, make sure you have enough time to take the ACT twice. Don't wait until senior year to get your first fee waiver since this likely won't give you enough time to take the ACT more than once.
How long is the ACT? Get familiar with the timing and pacing of the test so that you can prepare yourself effectively for test day.
Aiming for perfection? Read expert tips and strategies from a 36 full scorer. Even if you're not aiming this high, our guide is 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.