How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?
Many college guidance counselors (including myself) say that nine is about as many colleges as you should consider. Any more than that, and it becomes difficult to really focus on your applications and target each one. If you’ve got too many schools, they all tend to run together in your head, and it’s harder to think about why you really, really want to go to each one. If you don’t really, really want to go to each one, why are you applying there at all? Colleges can tell when you aren’t enthusiastic, and you wouldn’t want your top school to think you didn’t care that much about them simply because you were so worn down from applying to twenty other schools that you couldn’t give this one your all on the application.
The amount of reach and safety schools you want to apply to depends. Instead of classifying each school as reach or safety, try to go for a range. You’ll have one school that you’re almost positive you’ll get into, and one that you’d be flabbergasted if did get into, but put a mix in between for the rest of your schools. That way you won’t necessarily feel like you’re settling if you didn’t get into your dream school, because you may have gotten into a school that’s not quite as prestigious but better than your safety school! Just like good investing, you want a diverse portfolio that will give you a lot of options.
2 likely options, 4 possible and 2 reaches
The number of schools a student applies to depends in part on the student, his or her interests, and the competitive nature of the schools to which he or she is going to apply. For the sake of practicality I usually recommend between 5-10. This allows students to get a good balance of schools and to find a good fit without going overboard. However, some students who are applying highly selective schools, the schools with very low admissions rates, may submit more applications.
Here’s the balance I like to see: I like to see at least one school where the student is pretty much assured to get in and a school where they’re assured it will be affordable (this may be the same school or a different one). In other words, these are two types of back-up schools – academic and financial.
I like to see a lot of schools in the mid-range. These are schools where admission is possible, but not guaranteed. They’re good fits. These are great schools that match up with the student’s academic abilities and personal strengths.
I always like to throw in a couple of stretch schools. Those are sort of long shot or reach schools. It’s good to have a challenge, but you can’t have an entire list of hard-to-get-in schools, no matter how strong your qualifications.
Occasionally, I will have students who apply to more than ten schools, but they have specific reasons for keeping each school on the list and I warn them in advance that the process can be exhausting and expensive.
It should always be 8.
3: Dream schools
3: Schools in accordance to your profile
2: Safety schools
It’s not the number–it’s the type of colleges. Most students should have an equal number of reach, stretch, 50-50, and likely schools. If your list is top heavy, then you will need to have more colleges on your list. Start with 8 to 10 colleges and see if that’s enough. If it’s not, then add on. The online process makes it easier, but applying to colleges takes time and lots of effort. Don’t apply to any college, you would absolutely never attend. That’s one wasted effort.
There is no magic number for students when deciding how many schools should be on their “list.” Each client is different and has unique qualifications that are specific to their circumstances. (i.e.m cost, programs, location, legacy family) Certainly, more than 10-12 schools can be overwhelming and expensive so I encourage my clients to narrow the list down before application season.
I typically recommend that students apply to 8 or so schools, with a couple of safeties and a couple of reach schools. If you approach the process in earnest you should be able to find the right amount of schools to fit this model. Remember that “safety” schools should be schools that you want to attend, and the same goes for “reach” schools. Don’t just apply to MIT as a reach, make sure it is the right fit for you.
Between 8-10. 2-3 reaches, 4-5 targets, 2 safe safeties. Be careful here, don’t judge your designation of a school as reach, target or safe just by the school’s admit rate. Instead ensure that you evaluate your suitability /attractiveness for each school in a holistic, OBJECTIVE way!
I recommend 6-8 applications. Think of having 2 in each category with some room to spare if you just can’t let go of a couple. Managing more than that can get crazy, keeping track of essay topics, deadlines, etc. Plus, if you haven’t narrowed your choices down by the time you apply, it isn’t going to be much easier once you learn of your acceptances. The more realistic you are during this entire process, the less stressful it will be for you. Offers of admission are not to be viewed as badges of honor. Remember you are looking for a match to be made, not a prize to be won.
You should apply to a minimum of 5 colleges, with at least two safety schools.
I generally recommend at least five – the one reach, the one with a strong possibility, and three that you are on target for
A list of 6-10 schools is optimal. Out of these schools, 2-3 should be reach schools. These are schools where your GPA and standardized test scores are slightly below what the school is looking for in their middle 50%. 2-3 should be true safety schools. These are schools where your GPA and standardized test scores are above what the school is looking for in their middle 50%. Finally, 3-4 schools should be “just right” schools, where your GPA and scores are in the 50% median range for these schools. I also think that all, or at least most, of the schools that you place on your list should be schools where you can see yourself, where you would be comfortable attending that school.
This will vary slightly for different individuals, but the majority of students I work with apply to 6-9 schools. These are usually fairly evenly divided amongst reach, target, and safety schools.
I suggest 2 likely, 3 target and 2 dreams. Be sure that your schools are indeed in those categories.
These days, it’s not uncommon for students to apply to upwards of 15 schools. In some cases, this is because they can’t narrow down their schools of interest, but more often it’s a strategy born of fear, and the belief that the more applications you submit, the better your chances of being accepted.
While this may have some element of truth, you should also consider the possibility that submitting tons of applications may backfire. In the rush and stress to complete so many applications, quality often suffers. When you’re struggling to complete 15 applications and the 30-35 supplement essays likely to be required for this number of applications, mistakes are much more likely to happen. The quality of writing will go down. Important questions may be overlooked or addressed incorrectly.
A better strategy is to find between 6-8 colleges that are great fits for your personality, needs and goals, then put your best effort into making those 6-8 applications an authentic, engaging reflection of who you are as a student and individual.
Apply to 2-3 safety schools, 2-3 target or likely acceptance schools, and 2-3 reach schools. It’s important to develop a list of schools with a broad range of selectivity. If your list is well balanced and you’ve done good research as to a school’s typical acceptance profile, you’ll be successful in getting into at least one (and probably more) of your choices.
2-3 sure admits
2-3 mid range
2-3 financially safe
Not sure about this
Short reply: it depends. If Early Decision or Single Choice Early Action, one (and tentative applications to others “Regular Decision” or “Early Action”); if finances are not an issue, 5-8; if finances are an issue 8-12. Generally, one third could be reaches, and one third safeties (if you believe there’s safety in this process!). And that’s a VERY rough estimate, definitely not a “one answer fits all.”
When choosing how many colleges to apply to, it’s important to keep in mind the amount of time that will be needed to complete each application. Even if all of the schools to which you apply accept the Common Application, many of them may also have their own application supplements or essay requirements. Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of applying to each college, having standardized test results sent, etc.
You will probably get differing advice on this matter, but most of my counselor colleagues suggest applying to between 6 and 10 institutions. Of that number, you can decide what fraction you want to distribute among the “reaches”, the “good chances”, and the “safety” schools. You might consider, for instance, applying to two “reaches”, and two “safety” schools, with the rest of your applications going to schools at which you estimate having about a 50/50 chance of being accepted based on your high school grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and other significant factors.
It’s fine to apply to a few “reaches”, but try to make them realistic reaches. A reach for one applicant will be quite different from a reach for another applicant.
Also be sure that every single school you apply to is one that you would be happy to attend, whether you’re designating it a “reach”, a “good chance”, or a “safety” school. There’s no point in wasting an application on a school that you have lukewarm feelings about.
When determining the number of colleges to which you will apply, it’s important to keep in mind the amount of time that will be needed to complete each application. Even if all of the schools to which you apply accept the Common Application, many of them may also have their own application supplements or essay requirements. You don’t want to be applying to so many schools that you don’t have time to prepare the applications and essays properly. Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of applying to each college, having standardized test results sent, etc.
You will probably get differing advice on this matter, but most of my counselor colleagues suggest that students apply to between 6 and 10 institutions. Of that number, you can decide what fraction you want to distribute among the “reaches”, the “good chances”, and the “safety” schools. You might consider, for instance, applying to two “reaches”, and two “safety” schools, with the rest of your applications going to schools at which you estimate having about a 50/50 chance of being accepted based on your high school grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and other significant factors.
It’s fine to apply to a few “reaches”, but try to make them realistic reaches. A “reach” for one applicant will be quite different from a “reach” for another applicant.
Also be sure that every single school you apply to is one that you would be happy to attend, whether you’re designating it a “reach”, a “good chance”, or a “safety” school. There’s no point in wasting an application on a school about which you have lukewarm feelings.
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