Is the cost of registering for the SAT a financial difficulty for you and your family? You may be eligible for an SAT fee waiver, which covers the full cost of registration for the SAT, with or without the essay section.
We’ll explain what criteria you need to meet to be eligible for an SAT fee waiver and guide you through the steps to using it. With this guide we hope to help you overcome the barrier of testing fees in your path to college.
What Guarantees SAT Fee Waiver Eligibility?
College Board’s primary eligibility criteria says that you must be enrolled in (or eligible to participate in) the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program (FRPL).
If you’re not on free and reduced lunch, there are some other criteria that may make it possible for you to obtain a fee waiver. You must meet ONE of the following, as defined by College Board (click here to read about this criteria in Spanish):
- Your annual family income falls within the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (provided below).
- You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., Federal TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
- Your family receives public assistance.
- You live in federally subsidized public housing, a foster home, or are homeless.
- You are a ward of the state or an orphan.
Income Eligibility Guidelines for the Free/Reduced Lunch Program for 2015-16
|Members in Household||Total Annual Income|
The number of members in household includes the filer. A student in foster care is considered a household size of one person. If you have more than six members in your household, take the annual allowance for six - $60,255 - and add $7,696 for each additional member.
In addition to meeting one of the above guidelines, there are a few other conditions for obtaining an SAT fee waiver.
There are some other important rules for getting the green light on SAT fee waivers.
Other Rules and Conditions
First, SAT fee waivers are only available to 11th and 12th graders. SAT Subject Test fee waivers, however, are available for all high schoolers in grades 9 through 12.
Secondly, if you're testing outside of the U.S., you have to be a U.S. citizen to be eligible for a fee waiver. If you're an international student, then you can only get a fee waiver if you're residing and testing in the U.S. or U.S. territories.
And third, eligible home-schooled students should contact a counselor at their local high school to get fee waivers. They will likely have to provide supporting documentation to prove they are eligible, such as tax records, public assistance records, a record of enrollment in an aid program.
Now that you know all the criteria for getting a fee waiver, let’s take a closer look at what exactly an SAT fee waiver covers.
What an SAT Fee Waiver Covers
An SAT fee waiver covers the full cost of registration for the SAT test, with or without the essay section. It doesn't matter which you choose; you'll be covered either way. If you register for the SAT without the essay, but change your mind on test day, then you don't have to worry. As long as your testing center has the materials, then your fee waiver will cover your SAT + essay with no additional fees.
You can get a total of two fee waivers for SAT registration and two fee waivers for SAT Subject Test registration. These do not cross over and cannot be exchanged with each other (in other words, you can’t use one of your Subject Test waivers to register for the regular SAT, or vice versa).
The subject test fee waiver covers your registration for one day. Since there can be up to three subject tests in one day, one subject test fee waiver could cover one, two, or three subject tests. So two subject test fee waivers could cover up to six subject tests (three on one day and three on another).
SAT fee waivers are also useful for sending your scores to colleges. Whether or not you're using a fee waiver, you'll get up to four free SAT score reports sent to colleges. If you're using a fee waiver to register, then you'll get an four additional score reports sent to colleges for a total of eight free score reports! These four additional score reports can be ordered at any time.
Fee waivers also cover College Board’s Question and Answer Service (QAS) or Student Answer Service (SAS) if ordered at the time of registration. These services give you a more detailed look into your SAT score report, which can be a huge help if you're planning to study more and retake the SAT. If you want QAS and/or SAS, then you need to order them at the time or registration.
With SAT registration fee waivers, you could make up to four requests for fee waivers for your college applications. Your counselors should be able to help you through this process (usually through the Common Application).
Finally, if you are testing internationally, the fee waiver covers the non-U.S. regional fee that’s added to international registration.
As you can see, the fee waiver doesn’t just cover the cost of registration, but it also helps you with your college applications. However, there are a few limitations of the SAT fee waiver, which I'll explain below.
A fee waiver does not cover a six-month supply of coffee to fuel your SAT prep - but wouldn't it be nice if it did?
What an SAT Fee Waiver Does Not Cover
One fee waiver can only be applied only to one registration. If you miss your test, you can’t use the same fee waiver again. Thus you should make every effort to take the SAT on the date you have registered for. Again, you can get a maximum of two fee waivers, so you can waive the fee to take the SAT twice.
If you need to change your test date, you will have to pay the fee of $28. You also can’t use your fee waiver to be put on a waitlist (which students may choose for an extra fee of $46 if their preferred testing center is already full on a particular date).
Now that you know the full range of services covered by the SAT fee waiver and its limitations, let’s take a look at what steps you need to take to obtain your SAT fee waivers.
What Steps You Need to Take
College Board sends out fee waivers to high school counselors, so your counselor should notify you of your eligibility and give you a form. If your counselor hasn't done so, definitely speak with her and ask about your fee waiver. As far as I know, you can't obtain one yourself; you need to get the fee waiver from your counselor or another eligible administrator.
Make sure you talk to your counselor well before the registration date of your test date so that you don't get charged late fees! This is especially important if you’re not on Free and Reduced Lunch, but you believe you meet one or more of the other criteria and can provide supporting documentation.
Your fee waiver will be a card that looks something like this:
When you register for the SAT, you will enter your 12-digit SAT fee waiver code, as well as your counselor’s name and eligibility criteria marked on the card. Once you’ve filled out the rest of your account (which entails uploading a photo, adding your personal and parental information, and choosing a testing location and test date), then you’re all set! You’ve registered for the SAT.
Advice for Students Using Fee Waivers
If you’re using a fee waiver and plan to take the SAT only two times, you really want to plan your optimal testing strategy carefully. Students almost always improve every time they take the SAT, as practice, training, and familiarity with the test is hugely helpful in improving your test scores.
Since many colleges “superscore” the SAT in the admissions process, or choose your best section scores across all test dates, you can take the test multiple times to build up a strong superscore. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a great score by taking the test twice - on the contrary, with a planned strategy you can hit and even exceed your target scores.
Besides using high quality test prep materials, you can improve your score by simulating real testing conditions. Using a full practice test, go through it as you would the real thing - with timed sections and short breaks, ideally on a Saturday morning. This will really help you get used to the timing and pacing of the test, as well as understand your own stamina and needs during a long period of testing.
Check out our free EBook on what you need to do to maximize your SAT scores. This SAT Study Guide gives you the 5 tips you need to know to prepare for the SAT, including both what’s on the test and tips for revving up your own internal motivation.
To Sum Up...
SAT fee waivers can be a huge financial help in registering for the SAT, sending your score reports to colleges, and submitting your college applications. Make sure to learn about your eligibility well in advance of registration, and speak with your counselor to make sure you are all set for registration. If you learn that you were eligible for a fee waiver after you already registered, you can’t get a refund of the registration fee. So definitely reach out to your counselor and take advantage of SAT fee waivers with enough time to spare.
As we said above, if you are limited to taking the test two times, make sure to maximize those two testing opportunities with a strong study plan and plenty of customized preparation. Check out the resources below for more important information and advice to help you prep for this very important test.
If you’re thinking about how to save money on testing fees, check out our complete overview of SAT and ACT costs.
In addition to getting the fees waived for the SAT, you may also be able to get your college application fees waived. This guide goes over the steps you need to take to obtain fee waivers for your colleges of choice!
To start designing and customizing your SAT study plan, read our article to learn when you should begin studying and prepping.
Aiming for that elusive (but definitely possible) perfect score? Learn from a 2400 full scorer. Read his personal story and comprehensive guide on how to master the SAT.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
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.