How many schools should I apply to?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How many schools should I apply to?

Esther Walling

How many is too many?

When you begin to apply to colleges hopefully you've already done your homework and researched the ones that have what you're interested in. No use applying to a big name school if they don't offer the major you want. Start with a list of about 30 that fit your requirements. You can use online sources like College Board and ACT to narrow down your choices by categories. If you have the chance to visit the ones on your list, do so. Look at your qualifications, talk to representatives, alumni, professors, sit in on classes. Use virtual tours if you can't visit. All this will narrow down your list. A good number to apply to is around 10 to 15 which include some reaches (highly selective schools), some reasonable stretches (ones that you have a really good shot at) and some sure things which could even include community colleges. That should give you a manageable number to work with and compare. Good luck with your search!


Number of schools

A reasonable number of schools you should apply to is 4-6.

Tiffany Schweickert

How many schools should I apply to?

Two to three

Nancy Caine
Director of College Counseling St. Augustine High School

Nancy Caine

The number of schools you apply to often depends on what you are looking for in a college. The usual advice is to apply to at least one college you know you can get in and afford, two-three colleges where your profile fits their criteria very well, and one or two schools that look like "reasonable reaches". Sometimes you may be limited by your own finances and cannot apply to so many schools. On the other hand, with so many colleges offering free applications, you may actually be able to extend your quest and apply to more. Students looking for money often need to apply more broadly, and sometimes those looking for sports opportunities need to do so as well. At any rate, limiting yourself to no more than ten seems to be a good suggestion, and pervents too much anguish in the spring when you have to make a decision on one school.

Patricia Saddle
Owner The College Planning Center LLC

How many schools should I apply to?


Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

How many schools should I apply to?

Some student intend to apply to many school as possible to ensure that they will have different option or to at least have one school that will accept their application. On the other hand, if the student has one dream school in mind and confident enough that they will get into it, they will send their application only to that school. Honestly, there’s no particular number of school application is required for the student to sent out. But most of school counselors recommend student to apply to five to eight schools. This can guarantee you that you won’t be left with nothing. At the end of the day what you should keep in mind is to apply only to school that you really want to have and stop yourself from applying to many just because you’re not that confident or applying too few because you’re too proud.

Phil Kerlee
Owner Kerlee & Associates

How many schools shoudl I apply to?

Ideally, you should be applying to between 5 and 8 schools. 1-2 reach schools, schools you would love to attend, but realize that the chances aren’t so good, 2-4 target schools, schools where your academic profile will make you an average student, and 1-2 safety schools, where you are almost certain to be admitted. More importantly, have a specific reason to attend that school. Does the school have a specific major, professor or program you are interested in? Is it located in a place you would like to live? The fact that your boyfriend/girlfriend is going there, or that second cousin Myron loves it there, only means that the school is right for them. You need to find the schools that are right FOR YOU.

Maren Kroger-Diamond

"Magic Formula" 3 - 3 - 3

Myth: You have a better chance of being accepted somewhere if you apply to as many colleges as your application fee budget allows; or, to as many colleges your parents will agree to pay for the app fees. Reality: IF you take the time to do your homework by researching the schools you are interested in and perhaps finding the schools that may be a best fit for you, you may only need to apply to 9 colleges. An excellent place to start your research is at, click on "Students", at next screen scroll down and click on "College Search". Have your current GPA and SAT scores on hand. The "Magic Formula 3 - 3 - 3" First 3: Your "reach" schools. Everything in your application package has to be near perfect for admission. Think, your dream schools. Second 3: Your "probable" schools. In other words, you meet the minimum requirements for admission. Third 3: Your "likely" schools. You exceed the minimum requirements for admission. Some may think of this category as their fall back schools. Best of luck to you.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Number of schools to apply to:

I typically recommend that my students' apply to 5 schools; there number 1 school after visiting and taking the standardized test that gives them a good indicator if the school will consider their application. I suggest that the 1st choice and 2nd choice are early action, (not early decision which is binding) and schools 3-5 after they have visited but before January to beat the late crowd of second semester applicants.

Brad Jackson
Director of College Counseling San Domenico School

How many schools should I apply to?

As a general rule I ask students to apply to 8 schools: 2 which would be in the reach category, schools where your grades and Scores are on the low side of the middle 50% but schools where you really want to go; 2 on the Safety side, where your scores and grades are in the top of the mid 50% and schools where you really want to go; and 4 schools in the middle. The most important thing is that you can see yourself finding success and being happy at all the schools where you are applying.