How many schools should I apply to?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How many schools should I apply to?

Wendie Lubic
College Counselor The College Lady

Don't over apply!

I limit the students I work with to 8-12 colleges maximum, with a preference for less than 10. Any more than that and the quality of each individual application goes down. Even if all your schools are on one application system, it still means keeping everything straight and answering school-specific questions. I prefer for student to "fall in love" with a small group of schools and focus their attention on making those applications stand out.

Patricia Aviezer
President Inside Track To College, Inc.

How Many Is Too Many? "Colleges to Apply To, That Is"

Of course, this is an individual decision but remember that applications require work! Students who have done their homework have begun to formalize their list as juniors, starting with 25-30 colleges with similar characteristics. What are the differences between them? They range between colleges that are right on your "stats" (SAT/ACT, GPA and Rank) to colleges 10% below your stats and 15% above your stats. On average the final college list will be between six to eight schools.

Marcia Kramer

How many schools should I apply to?


Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC


In my offices, among the many knickknacks with which students can fiddle to alleviate the ubiquitous stress of the application process, I have a two-inch tall canister of Kent Velocity Buckshot. Contained in its clear outer coating the size of a lip stick lay at least one hundred tiny metal pellets. When loaded into a gun, this ammunition will spray its target, unlike a bullet that will focus on one point. The definition of scattershot: something that is broad but random and haphazard in its range To apply to more than 12 colleges is to begin to err on the side of "broad and random". It is to cave to the exterior pressure and to abandon the initial plan of attack: to establish the best fit and match for each individual student. Focussing on Best Fit Decisions helps to narrow the 3000 four-year undergraduate colleges in the US to a dozen, both reach as well as likely acceptances, in a manageable cohesive list.

Helese Sandler
Savannah Educational Consultants

How many schools should I apply to?

6-8 to give you a good range of colleges.

Sue Luse

How many schools should I apply to?


Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Presidet/Partner, Global College Search Associates, LLC

Cost is everything these days, and the fact is there are many ways to achieve your dreams, and not all of them involve traditional, expensive colleges. The first advice students and parents should take is to stop thinking about the glamorous Ivies. They don't want you, so don't waste your hopes and money on the app fees. They want your application so they can appear more selective to the rankings publications. It may sound cool to your friends and classmates to say you are applying to an Ivy, but the fact is the Ivies know who they are accepting and it's probably not you. But you don't need them, because there are many institutions out there that will provide you with what you need, which is to achieve a degree that will prove to employers (investors? your community? grad schools? your future children?) throughout your life that you can think, write, analyze, calculate, and be an ethical, productive member of society. That said, be aware of the games institutions play with you and your emotions. College is big business, and it is you they are manipulating toward their own goals. That admissions counselor who is telling you yes to everything you ask? They have recruitment goals; to their college administration, you represent application numbers and tuition and room and board dollars; that is who counselors answer to, and they are protecting their jobs by telling you what you want to hear (and they've done enough research on you and your generation to know exactly what buzz words you will appreciate.) Take responsibility for your college choices, and -- like any smart consumer -- do some digging to discover if their "walk" reflects their "talk." And if you need help doing that, find someone to talk to who knows admissions from the inside out. So go ahead and dream, but get realistic about how you will achieve your dreams. You should consider four types of college pathways (and honestly, any number of college application choices should be able to provide you with the same attributes I mention below): 1) Your dream school that offers your dream major -- any country, any cost 2) A college that meets realistic expectations about costs and loan repayment over time (and that means possibly until well after you have your own children and are saving for their college and your retirement at the same time -- not to mention potential lack of employment at various times.) 3) One with a solid liberal arts core. The most important and employment-transferable education over time is a liberal arts education. The truth is you will not succeed in any major or profession unless you know how to think critically and creatively, write well, and know how to work with figures. So if your high school academic record is not strong (and even if it is), the third type of college you should apply to is one that will provide you with strong academic support in core credits that will be transferable. Ideally, these credits should be be in the form of an Associate's degree, because should you decide to begin your undergraduate studies at a cost-sensitive institution, many colleges will transfer-in the Associate's degree as whole, which can reduce the cost of your education overall. This type of study can be taken at a traditional four-year college or your local community college. The amount of money you save by living at home (no matter how badly you want to get away) and attending two years of community college can save you and your parents from decades of unmanageable debt, not to mention the out of pocket costs of travel associated with attending a non-local college. The choice of a local college or community college shows financial intelligence and emotional maturity, so don't be a snob. All employers out there will be seeing is where you got your degree from, not where you completed your first one or two years. 4) Your public state university; many students look down upon their state universities, but the fact is that most of these institutions offer an incredible education in many, many areas of study. Again, don't be a snob. In short, apply to cost-sensitive colleges that will provide you with a solid liberal arts core. Save your big money for grad school and a specialization after you've been working for a few years. A Master's degree is the bottom line now for long-term professional employment.

Donovan Blake
Lead Consultant Griffin Blake Educational Consulting

IEP Students

I, as an Educational Consultant, recommend that my special needs students pick no more than 5 schools. With the assistance of the family we can narrow it doen to 3. We only apply to the 3 schools that are on our list. My students always get into there first or second choice. Using an Educational Consultant allows the students to pick schools that best support their needs and it saves the parent money in application fees.

Mark Gathercole
University Advisor Independent University Advising

How many schools should I apply to?

If you know what you want and do your research well, 6-10 should do it. Avoid the "shotgun" approach of thinking that the more Reach schools you apply to, the better your chances of getting in - a 10% acceptance rate gives you the same chance whether you apply to one or five of them. Find schools that fit you well and apply to some Targets and Likely entries, too. And don't just apply to any Likely school - make sure it is a school where you think you could be happy. Spread your list out and you will have a happy choice in April of several schools who want you, instead of hoping you "might maybe" get in to one!

Dr. Skarlis
Owner/President The College Advisor of New York

Number of schools you should apply to

You should apply to between seven and nine schools.