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Small Costs Make Big Differences in College Applications

Small reductions in the cost of applying to college results in low-income students applying to, and sometimes attending, more selective schools.

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(Photo Credit: Tax Credits/Flickr)

If you want to get ahead in a great career these days, you are best off getting an education. Tuition costs aside, it may be surprising how great an impact the relatively small cost of an application makes on a student's decision to apply.

Sending ACT Scores

In Small Differences That Matter: Mistakes in Applying to College, Harvard University's Amanda Pallais found that students of various income backgrounds were more likely to send their ACT scores to more colleges if the service to do so were free.

It bears mentioning that the cost of sending your score to a college is $6. Application fees paid directly to the college are extra.

Pallais examined the change in student behavior when the ACT changed its policy from sending three free scores and charging $6 for each additional send, to sending four free scores and charging $6 for each additional send.

Another result of the cost change was that low-income ACT test takers attended more select colleges. The $6 cost of sending the scores prevented kids from applying, but the cost of the actual application did not.

College Board Outreach

In a recent post, we reported on the current College Board outreach program, which pays for college applications for the highest-scoring, lowest-income students in the year's batch of test takers.

The outreach program has also resulted in more low-income students applying to and attending more selective colleges and universities.

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