Ummm... a bit of both maybe (hopefully). I'm guessing I would qualify for need-based, but I don't know if they'll be willing to look at my financial records as an international student. With a 4.0 / 168 / Masters, I'm hoping I can maybe get a few merit-based ones. I got sent a few this cycle, without requesting them. What is the difference in terms of the application process? Should it alter the way I apply / ask for them? Thanks a lot... all this advice is much appreciated.
The process for receiving need-based fee waivers varies from school to school, and usually requires the completion of a financial aid form that verifies your financial need. You should certainly contact each school individually about this. However, be advised that the thresholds for these waivers are pretty stringent. I applied for an LSAC fee waiver and was denied-but Stanford granted me one.
I don't know much about merit-based fee waivers. I do know that a lot of students who take the LSAT before the application cycle they apply in have had trouble renewing theirs-and they usually don't receive a fresh one every year (schools probably consider those lost causes or people who chose just not to apply to their school the year they were granted a fee waiver.) However, I'd recommend you contact the schools that you have received fee waivers from and ask if you can use them during the next cycle. Some students have emailed schools actually requesting fee waivers-and it is to my understanding that most of those attempts failed.
I personally contacted a school requesting a fee waiver only to be told they didn't grant merit-based fee waivers. After I turned my application in, several (re: a lot) of people with my LSAT score and similar profile received a fee waiver. Anecdotal, yes. But that's all you're going to get on this board.