How many schools should I apply to?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How many schools should I apply to?

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.

Nicole Oringer
Partner Ivy Educational Services

generally between 7 and 10

It's best if you can naorrow down your choices so that you can really focus on each individual application and get to know each college that you are conidering. It can be very overwhelming to apply to too many colleges. Find a couple of ballpark, reach and safer choices and get to know these colleges!

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder

It's quality, not quantity.

Everyone's college list will differ in number. It depends on how competitive your list is. I have the following categories-reaching for stars (all Ivies and then colleges at and above your record), stretch (still challenging), 50-50, and likely. If you have many reaching for the stars colleges, then your list will be longer because you need to balance it out. If you are someone with a mixed record (with one weaker area), you need a larger list as well. Other kids just have a few schools because their academic interests are so focused, they know where to go. Having a long list also means much more work with applications but the work now is worth having great choices. later.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

There is no right number--except for what is right for you

There is no definitive right number of schools to which a student should apply. For some it is love at first sight, followed by an early decision application, acceptance, and ultimately attendance. For others there may be great indecision or financial factors may preclude an early decision application and they must wait until they know all their options. What is important is to give yourself a range of options and that you view the application process realistically. The difference in selectivity is wide ranging and you need to be sure that you have a “safety school”—a place that given your record will admit you, but one that still satisfies your criteria as to program, geography, cost, college experience, size, whatever it is that is driving your individual decision making. Don’t sell yourself short, but be honest about where you fit in oftentimes competitive process.



Jacqueline Murphy
Director of Admissions Saint Michael's College

Be reasonable

Applying to colleges is time consuming and can be costly. Do your research beforehand and apply only to those schools that seem reasonable in terms of your chances for admission and are good matches for you in terms of academics, campus life and location. Of course the big question is final cost...which can be difficult to determine in the beginning, but be sure to use the net price calculators to get a sense of what you may qualify for in terms of aid. I have seen students apply to as many as 20 schools and others a few as one. The correct answer is certainly somewhere in between. Eight to ten seem reasonable. Remember-you can only attend one

Glenda Durano
Owner College Advising and Planning Services

How many schools should I apply to?

I usually recommend that a student apply to between 7 and 10 schools, but, just as we cannot put students "in a box," neither can we put the application process "in a box." Students should never apply to a school "just because he wants to see if he will get in" or because "someone told you it is a great school." Simply because a school has an excellent program in your course of study doesn't mean that the school is a great fit. There are many factors to consider when determining which schools to apply to including size, location, programs, facilities, opportunities, academic/social balance, etc. Every school to which a student applies should meet the student's academic, social, and financial needs. A student should be delighted to be accepted to any of the schools to which he applies. Many times a student doesn't have the time or the resources to determine that, in which case, he should reach out to a consultant.

Lesley Colognesi

How many schools should I apply to?

There are over 3,000 school in the U.S .and students have the ability to be selective in the process. I suggest narrowing your list o 8-12 schools.

Symionne Quarles

How many school should you apply to?

I good number is five. You always want to include your reach and safety school. This number is manageable and will probably include the variety a student seeks.


2 Reach, 2 Match, & 2 Safety Schools

I always encourage student to apply to 2 Reach School (schools that would be a "dream" school but either financially or academicially or both are just out of the student's reach), 2 Match schools (schools which meet the student's needs financially and academically), and 2 Safety schools (schools which are just below the student's financial and academic needs). This is a good way to know that the student has a strong "spread" of schools without breaking the bank on college application fees.