Two college students sitting on a lawn looking at a laptop
Outlier Articles Home

College Success

16 Colleges & Universities With No Application Fee

11.17.2022 • 9 min read

Jennifer Rivera

Subject Matter Expert

What should you consider when looking at colleges with no application fee? Learn about application fees and the best colleges with no fee.

In This Article

  1. Why Do Application Fees Exist?

  2. Questions To Ask When There Are No Fees

  3. 16 Top Colleges and Universities With No Application Fees

  4. What If the School I’m Interested in Has an Application Fee?

College applications can be a pain… not to mention expensive. The average college application fee in the U.S. is $45, but application fees can range up to $100 for some college programs. These high fees add extra financial strain to the already high costs associated with pursuing a college education. The college application process is confusing enough, without having to add the extra burden of fees on top of it.

Why Do Application Fees Exist?

When you begin the process of applying to colleges, it is frustrating to have to pay a fee each time you send in an application. In reality, you are paying a fee to get the opportunity to pay a college thousands of dollars in tuition later. These fees can seem extremely pointless.

Why Application Fees Were Useful

Application fees helped colleges figure out who was serious about attending the school and pursuing a degree. The thought was if a college student had to pay a fee, they were more committed to attending the school they applied to.

College admissions staff presumed that without the fee they might spend a lot of time processing a student’s application only to find that the student wasn’t really interested in that school.

Why Application Fees Are Problematic

One of the biggest drawbacks to application fees is that it makes it expensive for students to apply to a variety of schools. These fees indirectly result in fewer students having access to a college education and increase the financial burden of college on students and families.

At our mission is to increase access to quality education and dramatically reduce student debt. This is done by eliminating unnecessary college costs.

When looking at the schools that fit you best, with all the other expenses related to college—tuition, fees, books, etc.—it’s important to lower as many expenses as possible.

Questions To Ask When There Are No Fees

If a college doesn’t have an application fee, that doesn’t mean you should apply. Examine the school first and ask:

Is the college accredited?

Attending an accredited college is important when it comes to getting the job you want. Accreditation also affects whether or not you can access financial aid or get into a graduate program in the future.

Does it have programs you are interested in?

If you are thinking seriously about going into a specific career, like nursing, applying to a college without a nursing or health-related program may not be the best fit. Make sure you are sticking with places that fit your personal and career goals.

Is it the kind of school you are looking for?

Before you start applying to schools, think about what you are looking for in your college search.

Do you have a particular area you want to live in? Are you looking for a college with a small enrollment or a large enrollment, or something in between? Are sports important to you? How about liberal arts?

Make sure you’ve narrowed down the kind of college you are looking for before you start looking at free applications as a main draw.

Are you an international student?

The colleges with no application fees in this list apply to U.S. students only. International students may still have to pay an application fee. If you are an international student, do your homework and look into each program’s fees.

16 Top Colleges and Universities With No Application Fees

Now that you know what you’re looking for in a higher education experience, here’s a list of top ranked colleges that do not have application fees. The rankings and other school information come from the U.S. News and World Report.

Worcester Polytechnic University

This private university in Worcester, Massachusetts has a student body of just under 5,000 students. They are especially known for scientific education, with majors specializing in everything from aeronautics to computer science.

About 30% of the students participate in sororities/fraternities, and 70% participate in sports of some kind.

Baylor University

Situated in Waco, Texas, Baylor is just shy of 15,000 students. This is a private, Baptist university that has a strong focus on volunteerism and faith-based activities.

Often, students do missionary work both in the local community and abroad. Baylor University holds a student satisfaction rate of a high 89%.

Marquette University

Marquette is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, just a mile from Lake Michigan. It is an NCAA Division I school, and its home basketball court is the same stadium used by the professional NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks. This private Catholic school has a strong Jesuit background and about 8,000 students. They are especially known for their programs in business administration, computer programming, nursing, and engineering.

Loyola University - Chicago

Among the largest Jesuit universities in the country, Loyola University - Chicago sits along the lakeshore of Lake Michigan with a student population of just over 11,500.

Nursing is the most popular major, followed by biology and psychology. Loyola has two campuses in Chicago, and one in Rome, Italy where students can study abroad.

Saint Louis University

This university is a private Catholic Jesuit school, but is open to all faiths. They offer a wide variety of majors, but over 25% of students choose a major in the health sciences.

The campus is situated in Saint Louis, Missouri, less than 5 miles from the Mississippi River and the Gateway Arch.

University of Dayton

Situated in southwestern Ohio, the University of Dayton is a private Catholic college boasting more than 80 undergraduate majors. The university enrolls just over 8,500 students, and the most popular majors are mechanical engineering, finance, and marketing. This suburban campus is located just south of Dayton on the banks of the Miami River.

United States Merchant Marine Academy

This is a highly-rated public college just outside of the New York City area. The Merchant Marine Academy has an undergraduate population of just around 1,000 students.

This competitive college provides students with a quality education in fields such as marine science and engineering. Students who graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy can expect to make an average annual salary of $65,200.

Drake University

Located in the center of Des Moines, Iowa, this private university enrolls just under 3,000 students each year. With 150 student organizations, including a large Greek Life community.

This private university also boasts about 140 majors. The most popular majors are marketing, actuarial science, and public relations. Drake also has NCAA Division I sports teams.

University of St. Thomas

Ranked among the top Catholic universities, St. Thomas is in St. Paul, Minnesota. Among its 6,000 students, finance, marketing, and business are the most popular majors.

Despite being a small private college, St. Thomas plays in the NCAA Division I. Many of their students also study abroad, as they have over 100 study opportunities in over 50 countries.

Michigan Technological University

This public university enrolls over 5,500 students each year. Located in Houghton, Michigan, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior, this research university offers over 120 majors.

Michigan Technological University is best known for its engineering programs, including mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering. The students also take advantage of their rural location by enjoying the great outdoors in their off time.

St. John’s University

This university in the heart of Queens in New York City is a bustling private institution with over 15,500 students. Though this is a Catholic institution, students of all faiths are welcome.

During freshman year, students are required to complete a course called Discover New York, which helps them to examine New York from the perspective of a variety of academic disciplines. Three of the most popular majors at this school are:

  • Biology

  • Finance

  • Criminal justice and law enforcement administration

Valparaiso University

Situated about 30 minutes from the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana, Valparaiso University is a private Christian school of over 2,500 students.

Many of the students here come to the university for their nursing program. Involvement in volunteer projects is highly encouraged at Valparaiso, and there are nearly 20 NCAA Division I sports to cheer for.

Missouri University of Science and Technology

This public institution of about 6,000 students is located about an hour south of Jefferson City, Missouri, and just under two hours west of St. Louis. As the name would suggest, this university has a big focus on the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. The most popular majors are mechanical engineering, information science, and chemical engineering, but there are a total of 99 degree programs to choose from.

New Mexico Tech

New Mexico Tech is a highly rated public college with a small enrollment and a high acceptance rate located in Socorro, NM. In fact, the school boasts a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensuring students have access to their professors.

New Mexico Tech is one of the nation’s top STEM schools and offers popular majors in everything from computer science to engineering to biomedical science.

St. John Fisher College

Located just 10 miles from the shores of Lake Ontario, St. John Fisher College is a private institution in Rochester, New York. This school enrolls over 2,500 students. This institution has Catholic roots and is firmly a liberal arts college. The most popular majors are nursing, biology, and psychology, but there’s a total of 37 majors to choose from.

Florida Institute of Technology

With nearly 3,500 students, this university is located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Cape Canaveral. Given the large number of aerospace companies nearby, many students intern at these organizations or are employed by them after graduation.

The most popular majors are mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, and aeronautics and aviation technology. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, students here also take full advantage of the locale, even if it is to study on the beach.

What If the School I’m Interested in Has an Application Fee?

If the college you are interested in isn’t on this list, don’t despair! You may be eligible for an application fee waiver for schools that do charge a fee, especially if you come from a family that qualifies as low income.

If a school is at the top of your list, it may be worth the fee to apply, but the elimination of application fees is becoming more common. Always check first, your top school may eliminate their application fee.

Students who apply to Degrees+ by Golden Gate University, Powered by Outlier several weeks before the registration deadline can have their application fee waived. (Be sure to check for the exact fee waiver deadline date.) By choosing to enroll in Degrees+, you can earn your associate degree for 66% less than average U.S. tuition costs and transfer your credits into a bachelor’s degree program later.

You should also check to see if the schools you are interested in have dropped the SAT or ACT test requirements. If they have, you might be more willing to spend some money on application fees since you don’t have to pay the fees associated with these tests.

The most important factor is to apply to schools that feel like they are a good fit for you. Take the time to do your research before you apply. If you do have to pay an application fee, make sure that it is for a school you really want to attend.

Worcester Polytechnic University67Worcester, MassachusettsPrivate
Baylor University77Waco, TexasPrivate
Marquette University83Milwaukee, WisconsinPrivate
Loyola University - Chicago115Chicago, IllinoisPrivate
Saint Louis University105 St. Louis, MissouriPrivate
University of Dayton127Dayton, OhioPrivate
United States Merchant Marine Academy128Kings Point, New YorkPublic
Drake University137Des Moines, IowaPrivate
University of St. Thomas137 (tie)St. Paul, MinnesotaPrivate
Michigan Technological University151Houghton, MichiganPublic
St. Johns University166Queens, New YorkPrivate
Valparaiso University176Valparaiso, IndianaPrivate
Missouri University of Science and Technology182Rolla, MissouriPublic
New Mexico Tech186Socorro, New MexicoPublic
St. John Fisher College202Rochester, New YorkPrivate
Florida Institute of Technology202 (tied)Melbourne, FloridaPrivate

*Rankings are based on U.S. News and World Report National Universities list

Degrees+: Discover Online College Unlike Anything You’ve Experienced

Outlier (winner of TIME Best Inventions 2020) and Golden Gate University (#1 school for working professionals) have redesigned the experience of earning a college degree to minimize cost and maximize outcomes. Explore a revolutionary way to earn your college degree: