How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

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Our counselors answered:

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

2-3 sure admits 2-3 mid range 2-3 financially safe 2-3 reach

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

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.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

I suggest 2 likely, 3 target and 2 dreams. Be sure that your schools are indeed in those categories.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

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.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

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.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? 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.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

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.

Kiersten Murphy
Executive Director and Founder Murphy College Consultants LLC

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

8-10 colleges. 2 likely options, 4 possible and 2 reaches

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

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.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

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.