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

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

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

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.

Joyce Vining Morgan
Founder and college counselor Educational Transitions

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

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."

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.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

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

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.

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.

Nicole McLaren
Founder, Test Prep Instructor, College Advisor AIM Educational Services

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

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!

Jackson

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

You should apply to a minimum of 5 colleges, with at least two safety schools.

Cindy Sherman
Guidance Counselor/Crisis Counselor Bloomfield High School

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