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

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."

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.