How many schools should I apply to?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How many schools should I apply to?

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.

Nicholas Umphrey

How many schools should I apply to?

Usually I suggest a minimum of three. Each school should be categorized as either a Reach, Probable, or Safety school. There are usually two factors I look at in determining this: a school's acceptance rate and their average standardized test scores. A REACH school is a school that accepts a low percentage of applicants, and has an average standardized test score at or above yours. A PROBABLE school is a one that you are very likely to be accepted into based on your test scores and their acceptance rate bring from 40%-70% (varying depending on individual cases). A SAFETY school is often a school accepting 70% or above and having average test scores average to low average. Some safety schools may not require SAT's. Many four year colleges with high acceptance rates, 2 year colleges, junior colleges and community colleges fit into this category

Shannon Brady
Academic & College Counselor Brady College Counseling

Creating your college list

It is a good idea to have a range of selectivity in creating your college list. I advise students to have anywhere from 4-8 colleges on their list. 2-3 colleges in 3 categories: reach, match, and good bet. A reach school is where the incoming freshman profile is slightly above your own. A match school is where the incoming freshman profile is in line with your profile. Lastly, a good bet school is where the incoming freshman profile is slightly below your own. Often times a good bet school is where merit scholarship money can be found.

Heather McCowen
Post Secondary Counselor The Chicago HS for the Arts

How many schools should a student apply to?

Between 7-10. The student should apply to enough schools to have several options to choose from to make sure the fit is there both academically and financially. Too many schools and the student's application quality will decline, too few and the student may not have choices about where to go to school.

Joseph Freeman
Dean and College Counselor Randolph School

List size

How many schools you should apply to very much depends on the nature of your college search. As a general rule, work to hone your college list to between six and eight schools. You want your list to have balance--a mixture of reaches, targets, and likelies--but EVERY college on the list must be one that you want to attend. Applying to a school that you have no real interest in attending not only wastes your time and money but also takes an admissions offer away from someone who might have that school as his or her first choice. Applying to more than ten schools is generally unwise, particularly if your list is "reach-heavy." You need to have a high threshold for rejection in that case. At the same time, focusing too narrowly on only one or two choices will leave you with limited options at the end of the process, particularly if college cost is an issue. That said, students who can identify a clear first choice should take advantage of Early Decision options, and students who are interested in a university with rolling admissions should get an application in as early as they can. Finishing the application process early in the senior year can be beneficial for the right student.

Kathryn Favaro
College admissions consultant California College Prep

I advise most students apply to 5-15 schools

It is important to create a balanced college list representing safeties, targets, and reaches. To know how you stack up for each school, check out last year's average admitted student data and compare your numbers.

Samantha Pieper

The number of schools to apply to

I recommend applying to anywhere from four to seven universities. If you apply to too many, you may not be turning in quality applications, and you may not have any genuine interest in those schools! Apply to schools you have visited or plan to visit and that you would seriously consider attending. Make sure you apply to at least one safety school that you would be happy to attend, i.e. a school you know 100% will accept you. Then, apply to a couple of schools you are fairly sure will accept that you also have an interest in attending, and finally, apply to one school that is a reach, a school that has higher admissions standards but you still have a chance of getting in. Best of luck!

Alex Restrepo

Giving Yourself the Right Options

Whether you're totally determined to go into the math of sciences or not at all sure what you'd be interested in majoring in, it is important to give yourself a range of different types of schools when you're applying to. Normally as a rule, I'd say apply to no more than 10. Within those have a mix of colleges and universities from around the country and of different types. By types I mean, large state universities in cities to small liberal arts colleges in rural environments. If you are not sure what you want to do, apply to more liberal arts colleges, as you often don't have to declare your major until later on. Even if you are dead set on becoming an engineer or a doctor, still apply to small liberal arts colleges because many have several research opportunities available to students much earlier on than larger universities (since you're not competing with graduate students for those spots)

Allen Hill
School Counselor Antelope Union High School

Applications for Schools

You should apply to every school that meets your criteria, such as degree field available, size of school, location of school, and social elements. Do not limit yourself to one or two schools that fit your requirements, seek out all the schools that fit.