The $1,700 cost that caught one prospective student by surprise

Most students expect college tuition bills, but few are prepared for the fees that arise during the application process, Kaitlin Mulhere writes for Money.

For Ash Parasa, a senior at Morris County School of Technology, the decision to apply to 20 colleges will cost him $1,700, Mulhere writes. He says he didn't realize how expensive college applications would be—until he was paying them.

Parasa may be applying to more colleges than the average student, but it's not that unusual to cast a wide net during the application process. Most students apply to more than one college, and about 28% of students apply to between six and ten colleges, according to Higher Education Research Institute's Annual Freshman Survey.

Application fees can range from $25 to $90 depending on the institution, Mulhere writes. Many applicants also pay to send colleges their SAT scores and to apply for financial aid. All in all, the process can easily cost students up to $100 per college they apply to, she writes.

Most families don't expect the college application process to be so expensive, says Jenney Buyens, a consultant with College Connectors.

For many students, financial surprises can play a role in their enrollment decisions, writes Peter Farrell, a managing director at EAB.

Thirty percent of students discovered that their top-choice school was more expensive than they expected, and almost half of those students decided not to attend for cost-related reasons, according to research by EAB's Enrollment Services. This finding underscores the importance of educating prospective students on college costs, early and consistently, throughout the admission cycle, Farrell writes.

Read more: Why some students decline their dream schools

How colleges are lowering application costs

A growing number of institutions now only require students to send in their standardized test scores if they're admitted and plan to enroll, Mulhere writes.

Many colleges are also waiving the fee for students who apply by a certain deadline or for students who attend a college access event, she adds. Other universities are removing the application fee altogether for first-generation students or for those who apply for financial aid (Mulhere, Money, 1/5).

Related: Learn how an unusual application attracted an exceptional student

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