This information was first published in 2015 - it's likely to still be accurate regardless of what year you're reading it in, but be sure to verify your target school's policies on this topic today!
Most people do not.
However, many (not all) bschools offer a goodwill gesture in waiving the app fee to certain groups of candidates, specifically those who currently serve or recently exited from the U.S. military, or Teach for America. Some schools extend this to Teach for China and Teach for India, as well as the Peace Corps. In most cases you need to have been active in service within the past two years to qualify.
Duke is also very community-minded, in that they offer some fee waivers to applicants who get a letter of support from a Duke student or alum.
A variety of schools will offer waivers or at least discounts on applying if you attend one of their info sessions for women or minority candidates. Again, Duke has a bunch of these.
Yale implemented a sliding fee scale in 2014 based on income (though we said at the time it was announced that it seemed like a PR ploy).
Why are we mentioning this? Obviously it’s nice when a school has such programs available – but if you don’t act fast, you won’t be able to benefit from them.
If you’re in one of these categories, you need to request your waiver now. In almost all cases, the school needs to get your request ahead of time – BEFORE you are ready to submit – so that they can review your documentation and then configure your account in their app system to let you submit without requiring payment.
Lots of people wait till the last minute on lots of things to do with their MBA applications. Lots of things can bite you in the butt if you do that. This is one case where schools are being generous to certain candidate groups. If you’re eligible for one of these discounts, you may as well take advantage of it!