How many schools should I apply to?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How many schools should I apply to?

Woodrow Dunn
Academic Counselor Freedom High School

How many schools should I apply to?

Before applying I would investigate to determine what schools would be a good fit. You would not apply to an Ivy League school unless you had extremely good grades and good SAT/ACT scores.

Elisa Bennett
Director & Independent College Counselor Access 2 Admission

The Number of Applications a Student Should Submit

I often suggest that students should consider applying to a minimum of 5 schools. One of those schools should be a "safety school". Acceptance is almost 100% expected based on the students profile for safety schools.. One school could be a "stretch" school, meaning that the student may really have to work to get accepted. The rest of the five should be the schools in the middle that the student would likely be accepted to, but not necessarily guaranteed. * Financial Needs should also be considered when students are categorizing their school applications. In addition, students that are interested in Historically Black Colleges and Universities may consider applying to 35 schools at once by completing one application, one essay, and paying one $35 application fee at

Connie Decker
Owner Connie Decker & Associates

How many schools should I apply to?

Students are applying to more schools in recent years because of the relative ease of doing applications online. Of course, you must pay the application fee for each college, and this can mount up. Applying for more than 8 institutions doesn't serve you well; it will only make a college's admissions statistics appear more selective. If you have done your research before the application season begins, and better yet, if you have had an opportunity to visit colleges, then applying to 5-8 schools is a good number. You should have 3 kinds of colleges THAT YOU LIKE on your list: The "reach" schools or "dream" schools, the "competitive" schools--where your scores and grades are commensurate with those students who were admitted, and the "sure" campuses--usually those that are formula-driven. If you have the GPA and test scores, you will be admitted.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

That depends on how well-rounded your list is.

You need to look closely at your profile (types of classes, grades, testing, activities, etc.) and if your profile is a fairly even match for at least 2 colleges on your list, and is much stronger than at least two colleges on your list, you should be set. Then you can apply to as many other colleges as you want. Remember, it is always important to always view each college on your list as a place you would be happy to attend. Do not apply thinking you will never go because that defeats the purpose of having them on your list in the first place. If you are open mined and do your research well you will find 6-10 colleges that will match you well (a good counselor can help with this).

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

The Magic Number of College Applications

There is no such thing as a magic number when it comes to applying to schools. It is important to make sure that you are being realistic with your list. Offers of admission should not be viewed as badges of honor/collector worthy. Unfortunately, the Common Application has made it all too easy to hit submit, driving up the number of apps each school must process. If you haven't put all of your eggs in one basket, if you've done your research and figured out good fit schools, 6-8 apps should be sufficient. If you're having trouble eliminating options before you're accepted, I don't think it will be any easier later. Save the application fees for future college costs and focus on putting together the strongest application you can.

Kristina Dooley
Independent Educational Consultant Estrela Consulting

Two or Two Dozen?

When embarking on your college search process it's important to remember that applying to more schools does not necessarily increase your likelihood of admission or options. What students SHOULD do is take the time to narrow down their initial "long list" to a list of schools that are the best fit and THEN apply to those. I generally recommend that students apply to 5-7 schools. This isn't to say that occasionally one of my students applies to 10-12...however, they often realize that the amount of extra work writing essays and completing supplements could have been avoided if they had taken more time to narrow their options to a more manageable list.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Balance Above Quantity

Students should apply to a balanced list of between 6-10 schools. Every student should apply to at least two foundation schools (strong likelihood of earning admission). Also, students should stretch themselves by applying to at least one realistic reach school (admission is possible, but not probable). Middle schools (chance of admission is about 50/50) help mitigate unexpected admission trends in either the reach or foundation categories. When a list is perfectly balanced, applying to just 3-4 schools is reasonable. Applying to more than 10-12 schools is a sign that the college search part of the admission process isn't over. Narrowing schools after receipt of admission offers is becoming more common as financial concerns influence final enrollment decisions.

Laurie Nash

Number of applications to submit

I recommend that my students apply to approximately ten schools — a few reach schools, a few probable schools and a few safeties (although nothing is really a safety any more).

Jennifer Tabbush

Ideal number of schools to apply to: 9

2 reaches, 2 safety schools, and 5 schools that you have a good chance of getting into. It is always a good idea to research admissions statistics or use Naviance's Scattergram feature (if your high school has it) to see how your grades and test scores compare to the average admit. Apply to schools that you think are a good match for you and that you really think you would go to if admitted.

Stephanie Wassink

The answer is strategy specific

Many students choose to apply to 3 or 4 schools in their safety, target and reach categories. The safety, target and reach designations are largely based on a student’s GPA and standardized testing scores as compared to each of the prospective colleges to which he/she is applying. If a student has decided to apply primarily to reach schools, (s)he may decide to apply to 5 or even more schools in the reach category. Because the student’s chance of admittance to reach schools is lower, many students try to raise the odds by applying to more reaches.