Applying for graduate school can get very expensive, especially if you are applying to multiple schools. Most grad school application fees range from $25 to $100, with the exception of business schools, which are often higher. These fees will sometimes deter students from applying to grad schools that interest them but where they have a lesser chance of being accepted.
Rather than severely limit the schools you're applying to, remember:
Call the admissions office and ask if they have fee waivers available, and if so, what the criteria are for applying. Sometimes just submitting the application online will get you the fee waiver. Explain your financial need if necessary and applicable—contrary to popular belief, admissions officers are on your side and want to help you whenever and however they can.
If you have the money available now to fund the application process, but will need it later for other school costs, don't let this stop you! You can take out a little more in loans to reimburse yourself for the extra application fees. While this means paying interest that makes the fees more expensive in the long run, the benefit (return on investment) of applying to more or better schools might well be worth the additional cost.
Getting a graduate education is a major investment in your future and going to the right grad school for you is important. Spending several hundred dollars upfront on application fees may feel like a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a small price to pay to expand your potential options.
While we are not advocating throwing your money away, we do encourage you to apply to a few of those schools where you would love to go, even though you may not feel like you're the strongest candidate for admission. You never know if your personal statement will make up for that low GRE or GPA. Isn't it worth spending a few hundred extra dollars to make sure you have the best selection of acceptance letters from which to choose?
If you'd like to apply to a number of grad schools, don't let cost stop you. Be sure to ask each admissions office about fee waivers, consider reimbursing yourself later, or think of the application fee as a smart investment in your future.