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You know that higher education is expensive - but did you know that just applying to schools can be, too? College application fees can add up quickly, especially if your young scholar has a long college wishlist. But budgeting for applications and related expenses can help ease the burden, and starting early will reduce the amount you’ll need to sock away each month.

Understanding Costs 101

To estimate just how much the application process will cost you, conduct some early research and have important conversations with your high schooler well before it’s time to apply. Among the factors to consider:

  • The number of applications your child will submit. Counselors often recommend that students apply to somewhere between five and eight schools, according to The College Board.
  • The application fees for the schools your child is considering. Prices can vary, and they’re often nonrefundable. The University of Arizona charges state residents $50 to apply and non-residents $75, for example, while a Columbia University application will set you back $85.
  • Welcome surprises! Some universities don’t charge application fees. And students with financial hardships can often get their fees waived.
  • Related application expenses that may arise. These include costs for taking standardized tests like the ACT and the SAT — possibly more than once — and for reporting the scores to colleges. Some states will pay for your child to take the ACT or SAT.
  • Many schools require an interview as part of the application process. If so, you’ll need to factor in the costs of a college visit.

Saving for the College Investment

You should start setting money aside as soon as you have a good grasp on the costs involved in applying for college.

Online budgeting tools can help you incorporate this new savings goal into your monthly financial plan. You may find that you need to cut back on other areas of spending to build up your stockpile of funds. Likewise, in the spirit of shared responsibility, you may want to ask your teen to contribute money toward the effort.

Consider opening a new checking account to hold application-related funds and future deposits that will be used for additional college expenses. Separating this money from other savings can help you keep track of it and reduce the temptation to spend it. In addition, setting up automated transfers from your regular checking account to this new one can keep you moving at full speed toward your goal as your college-bound student does the same toward their own.


This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on, you will leave the KeyBank website and jump to an unaffiliated third party website that may offer a different privacy policy and level of security. The third party is responsible for website content and system availability. KeyBank does not offer, endorse, recommend, or guarantee any product or service available on that entity's website.

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