The college application process can be an exciting and nerve-wracking time for high school students. One crucial decision they face is determining how many schools to apply to. Striking the right balance is essential to ensure a successful and fulfilling college experience. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when deciding the number of applications, discuss the pros and cons of applying to multiple schools, and provide a recommended range for students to consider.
One of the primary factors in deciding the number of college applications is aligning personal preferences and goals. Students should reflect on their interests, aspirations, and career goals. Researching and identifying specific programs or majors offered by different schools is crucial. This enables students to tailor their applications to institutions that align with their academic and professional ambitions.
The competitiveness of college admissions plays a significant role in determining the number of applications. It is essential to consider a range of schools, including reach, match, and safety institutions. Reach schools are those where admission may be more challenging, match schools offer a reasonable chance of acceptance, and safety schools provide a higher likelihood of admission. By applying to a balanced mix of these institutions, students maximize their chances of securing admission to a college that suits their needs.
Finances can significantly impact the number of college applications. Cost and financial aid options should be carefully evaluated. Students are encouraged to explore scholarship opportunities and consider schools with affordable tuition and robust financial aid programs. By doing so, they can identify institutions that not only meet their academic criteria but also provide financial support, making their college education more affordable.
Applying to multiple schools offers several advantages. Firstly, it increases the chances of admission. By casting a wider net, students increase their likelihood of receiving acceptance letters from multiple institutions. Additionally, applying to multiple schools enhances the potential for scholarship offers, providing more options to reduce the financial burden of college tuition. Moreover, exploring different campus cultures and environments allows students to find the perfect fit for their personal and academic growth.
While applying to multiple schools has its benefits, there are also potential downsides to consider. The application process itself can be time-consuming and costly, especially when each school requires individual essays, recommendation letters, and application fees. Students must strike a balance between applying to enough schools to maximize their chances and avoiding overwhelming themselves with an excessive number of applications.
While the ideal number of college applications can vary based on individual circumstances, it is generally recommended to apply to a range of 6 to 10 schools. This range strikes a balance between thoroughness and practicality. By applying to a combination of reach, match, and safety schools, students can ensure they have options while still dedicating sufficient time and effort to each application. It is crucial to prioritize quality over quantity, ensuring that each application is well-researched, thoughtfully crafted, and tailored to the specific institution.
Deciding how many schools to apply to is a significant decision in the college application process. Students should carefully consider their personal preferences, academic goals, financial situations, and the competitiveness of admissions. By evaluating these factors, students can determine a suitable range of applications that strikes a balance between thoroughness and practicality. Remember, quality applications that showcase genuine interest and alignment with the chosen institutions will increase the likelihood of success. The college application journey is an opportunity for self-discovery and growth, so take the time to research, plan, and make informed decisions to embark on a promising college experience.
How many schools should students apply to?
Honestly, there is no right answer to this question, though I stress to my students the importance of qualifying each school where they are submitting applications. Early in the process, when we work on their college list, I typically present 8-12 schools for them to consider and research further. Some of these are schools that the student has already expressed an interest in while others are schools I would like the student to consider. Over time, my goal is to get them to work on whittling the list down to 5-6 finalists. Of course, every student is different and for the ones who can’t pare the list down to a handful, we work on qualifying each additional school. The bottom line is that students should only be applying to schools that they have every intention of enrolling at if they are accepted.
At least if not more of what follows:
2-3 sure admits
2-3 mid range
Just make sure none of your schools are out of reach!
I encourage those with whom I collaborate to apply to 12 colleges. Among those I encourage three stretch, three target, three likely and three comprised of those among your city and state options. The caliber and kind of school depends on offerings, graduation rates and average debt on graduation. I also encourage students to consider what percentage of the courses are taught and graded by faculty as graduate school is a given for those with whom I collaborate. Fit consists of far more than brand name.
Going on campus tours is really quite fun and depending on what year you are in high school will determine how many visits you should take. If you are in 9th grade through 10th grade attend as many as you can when your family is on vacation or anything that is near your home. You will be surprised on how much this time will help you later during the application season. Most important thing is to take notes!
When you are a junior, limit visits to schools that match your academic profile and college preferences. You are already super busy and I am thinking you have much to do with very little time, so make use of your college tours. The most important thing is to get to at least one campus tour done every single holiday or time off from school. If you need to do a campus tour and admissions interview together give yourself permission to miss school (of course talk to your parents first) and attend during regular the school year.
There is no set number for a student apply to when doing college applications. But make sure you have at least a couple of applications to schools that are your Most Likely choice to get accepted, a few in the Likely category, and maybe one or two in the Least Likely column. If a highly selective school is also on your list and you really want to apply – go for it! Make sure it is okay with your parents as each application does cost money and many of my clients end up spending about $800-1000 on these fees alone.
My opinion is that 5 – 8 applications should be plenty. By the time that you sit down ready to tackle your college applications, you should have completed the extensive research required to make the best decisions for your educational future. When I say “extensive research”, I mean that you have already made a decision about what you will study and what schools have programs that match up with your interests, visited colleges, talked with admissions counselors, determined what schools match your budget, figured out that you actually have a chance at being accepted based on GPA and SAT/ACT scores, etc.
When students select schools to apply to they should have a strategic list of schools. A strategic list of schools is not a list of 13 schools with an acceptance list below 10%. A strategic list of schools is a list of schools which are all good fit schools with varying acceptance rates. How many schools? Again it depends how specialized a student’s interests are and if those specialized interests are found more often at a school with a lower acceptance rate. Students should compile a list of 10-14 schools that represent a range of acceptance rates for THAT student’s personal academic profile.
My general rule of thumb for applications is that students should apply to no more than 6 schools – and less is okay! (The only number less than 6 that is NOT okay, however, is one. Students need to have at least one back-up school in place, no matter what.)
It isn’t really feasible, practical, or economical to keep track of all of the admission deadlines, visit dates, and general facts about more than six schools by the time you’ve finished your college search process – and beyond that, you don’t want to have to wade through additional financial aid offers and housing forms when it gets close to the May 1 deadline!
If you’re having trouble narrowing your school list down to six schools or less, you need to examine your criteria for selecting schools. If the mix of schools is particularly homogeonous (that is, all of the schools on the list are nearly identical), then you need to ask yourself what particular characteristics of each individual school will make it either desirable (or, perhaps more importantly, UNDESIRABLE) for you in the next four years.
There is no set number of schools a student should apply to! Instead, I let my clients know that if a school is put on their list, they better like it. It’s not about “prestige” or “safety” or “everyone else I know is applying there.” Applications should only be submitted if the student and family are “sold” on the school’s fit for the student. That goes for infamous 3 categories of “reach,” “target,” and/or “safety.”
For girls, that means if the outfit doesn’t fit, no matter the brand, don’t apply!
For boys, that means if the outfit doesn’t fit, no matter the brand, don’t apply!
Schools need to FEEL right to you to actually submit applications.
There is no magic number here, everyone will be different based on their academic and financial situation.
When applying, I recommend that you choose those safety, reach, and target schools during the summer of your junior year based on your GPA and current SAT/ACT scores.
Try to have 2-5 schools in each category, so that you are giving yourself options and flexibility in the college application process, but some people may be limited by their financial situation. If that is the case, make sure to speak to your school’s guidance counselor to obtain fee waivers for each college, or, ask them to write a letter on your behalf. However, you may need to provide documentation showing that you are eligible for a fee waiver.
You want to make sure that the schools you are applying to have the major or majors that your are currently interested in, are located in areas you would consider living in for the next four years, and are within the tuition range you and your family are comfortable with.
There are many other factors specific to you that will ultimately determine which schools you apply to and which you will attend, but by applying to a number of schools early, you have flexibility when you select your school in the spring of senior year.
Remember, you will be a different person from September to May of your senior year; you can always turn colleges down, but not if you don’t apply before the deadline, so apply to more than less!
Students should apply to 8-10 schools. Any more than 12 feels too much – as if the student hasn’t really decided which they like.
I generally suggest that students apply to between 8 and 12 schools total, being sure that the list is balanced within each of the following admission expectations categories:
Reach Schools (3-4 schools) – Your profile falls outside of the profile identified by the college, but you feel that you have a unique circumstance or talent that may capture the attention of the admissions committee. You realize that these schools may be a “reach,” but you would like to try.
50/50 Schools (3-4 schools) – Your profile falls within the middle of the profile identified by the college. You believe that you have a one in two chance of being an applicant selected by the admissions committee.
Likely Schools (3-4 schools) – Your profile falls within the middle to upper range of the profile identified by the college. This factor, along with your extracurricular activities and community service, give you confidence that you will most likely be admitted.
Confident Schools (3-4 schools) – Your profile indicates that you have achieved well above the profile of the college. This achievement, along with your extracurricular activities and community service, give you confidence that you are very likely to be admitted.
When students and parents ask this question, it usually indicates that they are attempting to play the number game: if I apply to more college, then I will increase my chance of being accepted to at least one college. However, this line of thinking should be referred to as the “diversification trap”. First, the more colleges you have to research, write essays, complete essays, and prep for interviews, the less time you have to do each well, which actually decreases your chance of being accepted. Second, more importantly, this is simply the wrong number game. The real number game in the admission process is applying early decision or early action to college.
Let me elaborate on the second point. If you want to improve the possibility of being accepted to college, your chance increases exponentially when you apply early decision or early action. To do so, you must be so committed to your first choice that you would gladly reject the others if accepted. This is not the case for non-restrictive early action, which allows more flexibility. Hence, here is a basic admission strategy: Apply to 1 college for early decision/restrictive early action round; Apply to 1-2 college(s) for non-restrictive early action rounds; and Apply to 3-4 colleges for regular admission round. If your early decision application gets accepted, excellent! You are done! If your early decision application is unsuccessful, but one of your non-restrictive early action application is accepted, you can stop or you can apply to more schools in the regular admission round. Last, if the early admission rounds do not fare well for you, you can conquer the regular admission round.
In my opinion, about 4-7 college applications should be sufficient without overwhelming yourself.
This depends on sincerity and time. Apply only to colleges you want to attend, and only do as many applications as you can do well and completely. There’s really no need to apply to more the 8 or 10 if you do thorough research and make good decisions. That way you can spend the time it takes on each application in order to introduce and represent yourself completely. It shows a good level of maturity and when you limit the number of your applications. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking if you apply to 15 schools which accept fewer than 20% of applicants, you have a better chance than if you apply to 8. Apply to schools you like, with various admission difficulty. Doesn’t it make sense that it’s a lot more fun to get acceptances from schools you like than denials?
This really depends on the student but it is often advised to apply to a few (maybe 3) match schools, a few safety schools and one or two reach schools since college admissions are so difficult to predict these days and you never know what the outcome will be.
If a student is applying to a college Early Decision in the fall, the answer may be one. However, an ED school can only be selected after a thorough college search (with visits) during junior year, since it is a binding commitment. You can apply to other schools during the fall while applying to an Early Decision school. If these schools are Early Action or Rolling Admission, they could “cushion the blow” if you are deferred or denied by your ED school. However, if you are accepted to your ED school, you must immediately withdraw any applications you have submitted.
If you are not applying Early Decision, I recommend about eight schools, some of which may be Early Action or Rolling Decision so you can get early feedback. However, of this eight schools, six should be closely clustered around your target (schools that have similar SAT and GPA to yours, as indicated by Naviance, College Board, or the schools’ websites). You do not want four reaches (that you will probably miss) and four super safes (where you would not be happy attending). Six targets, one slight reach, and one likely, is a better bet.
I always tell my students to choose their top ten schools. Apply to all of them if you can afford it, if you qualify for free or reduced lunch, your school counselor should be able to provide you with application waivers. Then wait and see what schools accept you and what they offer you.
As you start the college search process, I wouldn’t be concerned with how many colleges you’re researching. However, when it is time to apply, I would narrow your list to 15 or less. I’d encourage you to apply to 3-4 “reach” schools (highly selective), 7-8 schools that you feel somewhat confident in acceptance (moderately selective), and then 3-4 “safe” schools that acceptance is almost a guarantee (open admission). This approach will leave you with at least 10 schools to choose from if the “reach” schools do not pan out for you.
College applications are a lot of work and application and test score submissions can get to be expensive. I suggest doing careful research about each college before starting the applications. This allows you to eliminate colleges that are not good matches before you apply. As each year seems to be more competitive it is important to be very realistic about how your academic profile stacks up with last year’s admitted students. When your research is complete, make a list of 2 “likely” schools where your g.p.a and standardized test scores are above mid 50% range of last year’s admitted students, 3 colleges where you stats fall within the published 50% range of GPAs and scores, and 2 colleges where you scores are slightly below. It is a good idea to check with a counselor to see if our list matches up with their view of academic profile. Each one of us likes to think that we will be the exception and the truth is that most of us won’t be unless we have some extraordinary talent or mitigating factor.
I typically recommend that students apply to anywhere between 9-12 schools. However, I consider UCs, CSUs, or other universities that are a part of a larger University system as “1” school. This allows for a good number of reach, safety and “fit” schools and will not bog you down with too much work in the admissions process. Also, do take into consideration that you will have to make a choice and having too many options can complicate the process. Also remember that you should want to go to every school on your list, even those considered to be a “safety” school.
Once I applied to one school. After a while I realized I had done a very huge mistake because when I found out I wasn’t accepted, I was so upset and so down in the dumps, so it took me 9 months to get my positive mood back on track. So I kinda “loose” one year, but as a believer that everything is done for the better, I tried to forget about that unpleasant experience and move on preparing my applications for a few (!) colleges the next year.
That’s why I definitely recommend you to apply to 4 universities AT LEAST! That way your chances to make your dream happen become higher, which is a good reason for you if you’re one of those who really want your dream to come true as soon as possible!
So, make it happen! Best of luck to you! And do not ever forget to BELIEVE in yourself! Thas helps.
I encourage students to apply to at least three colleges if they have the finances to do so. Apply to a “reach” college; this is a college that might be seemingly beyond your test scores and GPA. However, it might be your dream school; give it a try. Apply to a “safe” school; this is a college that should be an easy fit for you. Your grades match to their acceptance standards and you will enjoy going to that school. Then, apply to a school that seems to meet your criteria and one in which you match theirs. This college should be one that has your projected major and interests, meets your financial profile, and embodies much of what you think you need in a college.
This is a great question. It simply depends on the schools you are applying to and their qualifications. If the schools you are applying to are difficult to be accepted to (i.e. Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale), and your qualifications to get into the school are not top tier, you may consider applying to many (say 10 – including schools outside of the Ivy League).
Now, if you are applying outside of the Ivy League, and you are top tier in academics, athletics, volunteering, and work outside of school, then your chances of getting into a school of your choice (again, outside of the Ivy League) are high. So you may only apply to a few (say 3).
There is a lot to consider, but don’t put a lot of time into applying to schools that are beyond your qualifications, and in the same breath I will add: don’t sell yourself short if you are brilliant, talented, and versatile — apply to your dream school in addition to other great schools.
The number of schools a student applies to varies depending on their circumstances, however, my general advice is to apply to five. I believe a student can keep their options opened but focused by applying to five colleges. One college that the chances of admission is challenging, two that admission chances are moderate and two that admissions chances are above average.
There is not a perfect number – it depends on what you are looking for. I see many students apply to 8-10 colleges on average. I have also seen students apply to 3-4 knowing that they are very qualified for those colleges and expect to be admitted. More importantly – consider 2-3 reach schools (where your GPA may not be as high as the average & SAT/ACT scores are at the lower end), 2-3 target schools (your GPA and SAT?ACT scores are in line with what the school has been accepting, and finally 2-3 safety schools (where your GPA and test scores are above the average accepted). Apply to colleges that you are excited about attending! Determine your mix of reach-target and safety, then that is your perfect number.
For me, the right number has been between about 5 and 8. It is important to apply to a variety of schools in terms of selectivity. Apply to 1 or 2 safety schools (schools you know you can get in, and will be ok going there. Apply to 2 or 3 foundational schools (schools where you are kind of right at their average freshman’s GPA and ACT/SAT. And apply to 1 or 2 reach schools, schools you have dreamed about, and the only way to find out whether or not you get in is to apply!
First, only apply to schools that you will go to if offered admission, otherwise you’re just wasting time and money. I recommend that you apply to 2-3 schools that you have a good chance of being admitted. Another 2 in case those 2-3 don’t work out for you. And finally, why not dream, what are the 2-3 schools that you’ll love to attend but maybe you’re only likely to be admitted in your wildest dreams? Your dream can come true so give them a try. So that’s about 6 – 8.
First, only apply to schools that you will go to if offered admission, otherwise you’re just wasting time and money. Before you apply, know the probabilty that you’ll be admitted. Once you have that information, I recommend that you apply to 2-3 schools that you have a good chance of being admitted. Another 2 in case those 2-3 don’t work out for you. And finally, why not dream, what are the 2-3 schools that you’ll love to attend but maybe you’re only likely to be admitted in your wildest dreams? Your dream can come true so give them a try. So that’s about 6 – 8.
IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU…
Applying to college is an individualized process and will be different for every student. One student may look to apply Early Decision to a single school, while another student may be submitting several applications. With the average student applying to 6 to 9 schools, it is generally wise to select a variety that will include safety, target and reach schools. It is important to remember that with the ever changing restrictions on how you can apply, be sure to read all the facts on the official school website or speak to your counselor before submitting any applications.
A lot depends on which type of schools you are applying to. You should look at the school profile compared to your academic profile. Do your expectations match reality? People will tell you to apply to a couple of reach schools, a couple of target schools, and a couple of safety schools. Truth be told, you should want to go to all of the schools that you apply to. You also need to be strategic about it. If you choose a school to apply to that you are on the bottom half of their academic profile, that means you probably won’t get as much scholarship money as compared to a school where you were at the upper portion of their academic profile. in simple terms, 3 to 8 schools should do the trick depending on if you are looking in the right places.
The college application process is not a one size fits all. That said, there are basic principles around crafting a college list that I use with all my students. I want to make sure we have schools on the list that based on the students’ academic credentials, they are likely to get into. Next we consider schools for which the student profile falls comfortably within the university’s admitted student profile. Finally, I encourage all my students to prepare applications for reach schools. You never know what in your application may strike a chord with the Admissions Officer, so it’s important to put yourself out there. And now, to address the question at hand. Depending on whether the student has been admitted early or not, I usually recommend that s/he apply to at least 5 schools, with at least 2 being schools in the ‘likely’ category.
It’s important to apply to enough schools from a wide enough range of selectivity that you have an excellent chance of acceptance. Many students these days apply to upwards of 15 colleges, but this is unnecessary. Applying to 2-3 “safety” schools (where you are well above the average admitted student profile), 2-3 “target” schools (where you meet the average admitted student profile) and 2-3 “dream” schools (where even the most highly qualified kids don’t stand much of a chance) is usually sufficient.
There’s not a magic number, although the minimum is three. Students should, apply to schools with varied levels of selectivity.
Reach–Odds are you won’t get accepted, but you might. In more admission-speak terms, your academic profile lies outside the middle 50%, on the low end.
Match-Odds are you will get accepted, although you still have to make sure your application and it’s corresponding materials are top-notch. Your academic profile would be within the school’s middle 50%.
Safety-You could get accepted to this school even if you only filled out half the application. Your academic profile lies outside the middle 50%, on the high end.
I would suggest students apply to about nine schools.
two safety schools, which are schools where you are certain that you will be admitted.
four target schools, where you have a pretty good chance of getting in and you would like to attend.
three reach schools, these are your dream schools that are harder to get accepted into, but you think you may have a shot at.
As a high school guidance counselor for the past twenty years, this is one of the most common questions I get from students and parents. The standard answer is approximately six. And if things were that simple, college admissions would be a much easier process for students and parents.
The truth is there are many different variables in answering that question. It depends on what goals the student has, what major the student intends to pursue, the academic record of the student vs. the level of selectivity of the colleges, and many other factors.
When I work with students and parents I tell them the number of schools is less important than finding at least ONE that has the three most important criteria…
1. Am I certain (or nearly certain) I will get in?
2. Are the costs (tuition, room and board, travel, etc.) something I am sure I can handle, either by myself or with reasonable loans?
3. Am I certain I will be happy with this school? Does it have my intended major, and will I enjoy my time while a student?
Of course it will take a lot of research to find that one school. Talking with others, listening to experienced people and most importantly, VISITING these schools will help you answer those three magic questions.
Being able to find one school that you can answer “yes” to all three of those questions is the most important starting point. Once you have found that one school, feel free to apply to as many as you like. But there is no need to find one particular number.
Of course, there are exceptions. If you are applying for an especially competitive major, or if your academic record isn’t as strong as the students who typically get into the schools to which you’re applying, you may want to expand the number of colleges you apply to, just to give yourself the best chance of gaining admission.
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.
Each student is unique. The correct answer is as many colleges that will provide a student with the choices they need to have a successful college admissions process and find that match. On average my students apply to 8 schools. My high is 32 and my low is one.
I believe the number of schools applied to should be between 5 & 10. I know people that applied to over 15 schools and were quite overwhelmed! Pick at least two “safety” schools, two schools you have a good chance of getting into, and two “reach schools.” This allows you to compare financial packages and make a good decision!
When I counsel students in my educational consulting practice I assist them to build a balanced list of schools. Here is what I mean by that. Students should select about 3 “Foundation Schools” These are colleges where you fall at or above the middle 50% with regard to test scores and G.P.A. of last years accepted students. Next pick about 3 “Expected Schools”. These are schools where you are in the middle of the pack with regard to G.P.A. and test scores. Finally select about 3 “Dream Schools” These are schools where your are at or slightly below the middle 50% of accepted students.
Always have a financial safety school. One that you could afford to attend if you receive little or no financial aid. Keep in mind that your Foundation Schools want you to attend and are the ones most likely to offer you merit money.
Every school on your list should be one that you would actually consider going to. It is okay to have a few more schools in each category but if you have too many you will be faced with having to select all over again once you are accepted. Narrow your list down.
Always have a financial safety school. One that you could afford to attend if you receive little or no financial aid. Keep in mind that your Foundation Schools want you to attend
and are the ones most likely to offer you merit money.
Francine Schwartz M.A., LPC, NCC
Founder and President
Pathfinder Counseling LLC
– This varies. There should always be at least one safety school and at least one reach school. Otherwise, think about each school you are considering. If you got in, would you actually want to go there? If the answer is no, why bother applying?
– If you are waiting to visit schools until after you receive acceptances, cast a wide net- give yourself a lot of options! However, don’t apply to so many that you lose the ability to be thoughtful toward each school in your essay. Colleges know when they see a form essay and they don’t like it!
I’ve seen students apply to as many as 20 schools. That’s a bit much. A more reasonable range is 7-12 thoughtfully chosen schools. When I say thoughtful, I mean not only an academic match, but also a financial one. No doubt you will have your first, second, and third choice schools, but if the top two choices send rejection letters, will you be happy with the third choice? Remember that admission alone is not the prize!
There is not a perfect number for every student. I recommend that each student applies to at least 3 “Very Likely” schools. “Very Likely” means that your Admissions Profile is stronger (GPA, Courses, Test Scores, and Extracurricular) than the averages of the previous years accepted students. After a student has at least 3 of these on their list, I recommend that they student has a total of 4-10 colleges. There is not an exact number, but you want to make sure you are not wasting your time on applications when you can be working on your senior year grades.
I recommend applying for between 5 and 8 colleges.
Most students should apply to 1-3 colleges that can be ‘reach’ colleges, in which its acceptance rate is low.
There should also be at least two ‘match’ colleges in which the applicant matches the freshmen student population (regarding SAT scores, class rank, GPA, etc).
Finally, there should be at least one ‘safety’ school, in which the student is sure to get in. This school needs to be one in which the student does see himself attending though.
There is no magic or correct number of schools to apply to. Some high schools will even set their own limits. You should not be applying to any schools that you would really have no interest in attending. I usually suggest building a list from the bottom up. Choose two “safety schools that you can see yourself attending. These are the schools that would be the most likely to offer you merit money. Then add about 4- 6 “target” schools. That would be defined as those schools whose mid-range academic profile would be a match to your profile. That would include your GPA and test scores. Finally add as many “reach” schools as you are willing to spend the time and the effort completing those applications. So, a typical student might be applying to as few as 8 schools and as many as 12. Applying to lots of reach schools do not necessarily increase the odds that you would be accepted to one of them, especially if your list contained any of the “Ivy league” schools. One of the Ivies last year rejected over 800 valedictorians!
Applying to several colleges or many colleges has its own advantage and disadvantage. Most of the time, students would apply to safety college (100% get in), reach college ( colleges that require quite some accomplishment in your application), and high reach (your dream school that you would die to get in: harvard, MIT. UC berkeley, you name it!). The more colleges you applied for, the more expensive it would cost. Each application fee costs around 75 bucks. If you know exactly what you’re capable of and you’re sure exactly where you would end up, dont apply more than 5 colleges! If you want to open to more possibilities, you should apply to the maximum of 10 colleges! Apply to more than 10 colleges could work for many students, but it would kill a lot of your time and money- it’s better to have a good application than many average applications.
This seems to be an annual question with a response that would be similar to questions from students requesting of faculty about the appropriate length a paper should be. The answer for the later would be the length that allows you to make a sound argument succinctly. You should not go on and on simply to meet a certain length nor should you be so brief that you do not fully develop your argument.
Similar logic applies to this question. If you have done your homework about institutions you are considering attending for the next four years, you should be able to identify at least three schools. One you should be able to gain admissions easily and you would be happy attending. Another school might be slightly more difficult to get into and the last may be a reach for you academically but you have a chance to be admitted. Keep in mind that each of these schools should meet your general criteria about size, location, academic reputation, programs that are offered and cost. Aside from this basic litmus test on these topics and the institutions selectivity, the most important question you need to ask yourself in order to answer this question rests solely in your hands as the applicant. This question is: “How many applications can I complete well enough that I will have finished each of them to the best of my ability?”
So many students have difficulty narrowing their list of school to which they would apply. As a result, I have these students go to the admissions essay and begin the process of answering that essay. This process requires a good deal of effort and for my students requires them to dig deep into the curriculum of their intended major, the job placement of the schools graduates for this major, the faculty in their major department and their related research. After this review and information gathering step the student must begin to articulate why this school and their career and academic major aspirations are a good match. Typically students will begin to see where some of their final schools begin to match their interests and aspirations better than others and therefore an application priority is established. They also begin to understand that they are better served in spending a good deal of time on the applications for the schools that really are a good match for them on this deeper level than finishing twice as many applications but not doing their best work on any of them. At this moment, most of my students begin to eliminate those falling toward the bottom of the list. The result is a shorter list but great applications and not just good ones. These are also the students who tend to find an acceptance letter from their reach schools rather than a rejection because they allowed themselves the time to fully, succinctly and convincingly complete each section of the admission applications.
So my answer to this question is really more questions but for the student because as with many questions like this, the answer lies within you. I am just a guide to help you arrive at the answer that most appropriately matches your individual situation. Remember……How many great applications vs good applications can you complete? How sure do you want to be that you put your best effort into your “reach” school application? Have you completed a thorough review of all of the schools to which you feel you must apply so you can be absolutely sure that this school meets your educational needs and career aspirations? Now……to how many school will YOU apply?
Each student is different, and there is no right answer. Most students apply to between 6 and 8 schools. Some less, a few many more. More than a number, we are looking at whether the student has a reason to attend that school. Can they identify a department, activity, major, professor or something concrete that attracts them to the school. If they can, then they have done the research to know what they want.
When I start to get answers like ‘my cousin like it there’ or ‘My boyfriend/girlfriend is going there’, then I start to worry. If your cousin likes it there, that only means it was the right school for your cousin. If you go because of a relationship, ask yourself “if we break up (and most will) would I still be attracted to this school?” If not, then find a school that accommodates you and your interests rather than follow someone else’s dream.
Four…with a fifth fantastic idea.
Be purposeful, because your life is not a crapshoot. You should apply to four schools:
1. Your dream school – anywhere, no matter the cost (But make sure your application and your background really, really, REALLY speak to the college and what they expect of their applicants)
2. Your “realistic dream school” — one where you can afford it and where you will get a great education in your area of interest
3. Your state university
If you don’t get into any of those, then the following are excellent options:
4. Community college with an eye toward transferring when you are academically strong enough to get into a dream school
5. Gap year –do something incredible that will make your delayed admission to a four-year college look like a spectacular decision, not a consequence: Volunteer somewhere; work part-time or full-time someplace related to the major in which you are interested; travel internationally. Make it something meaningful to your long term goals.
Once you find some schools that you think would be a good fit, narrow it down to:
3-5 reach schools
5-10 match schools
3-5 safety schools
I know that sounds like a lot, but you’ll feel a lot better applying to a range of colleges that you’d be actually interested in attending. Don’t just apply to schools you think you’d get into but you wouldn’t want to go to just to get into college. You’ll get into college–you just want to make sure it’s one that is the right fit for you as well. There’s nothing worse than spending tons of money and being upset about it!
Rather than simply state a number, it’s better to start with two ideas.
1. Apply to colleges across a range of selectivity.
Go for your dreams! Apply to those reach schools (at least a few), but also be sure to have colleges which fit your college search criteria, but are less selective and will be more likely to offer you admission. In general, I think students should have 2-3 “reach schools” (schools for which your chances of admission are less than 50%), 3-4 schools which are “good fit” or “target” or “50/50” (the admissions decision could go either way, you are right in the middle of their score and gpa averages) and 2-3 schools that you would feel fairly confident will offer you admission (you have greater than a 50% change of admission).
2. Don’t apply to any college you wouldn’t want to attend.
This is a simple idea, but a crucial concept. Don’t waste the money, time and resources applying to colleges you wouldn’t be happy going to. Yes, it’s important to have a diversity of schools on your college list, but if you don’t want to go there, than that doesn’t help anyone, does it?
In that vein, in this process, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. There are lots of great colleges in this country – some of them are very selective and others offer “admissions bargains.” Keep your mind open to the possibilities. Just because a college is likely to offer you a spot doesn’t mean they are a bad school or offer poorer quality education. Keep your eyes peeled for those bargains – they are out there!
if you are not going to take the advantage of early decision option, you should consider between 5 to 10 schools to apply through either regular or early actions.
the best combination is to select 2-3 safty schools, 2-3 likely schools, and 2-3 reachable schools. how to identify those schools is the key and students should work with their counselors closely.
6 or 7. ; 2 reach, 3 good match, 2 safety schools.
No more than a dozen, preferably less. If you must become an expert on each college to which you apply, keep your focus narrow and resist the temptation to use all of those VIP apps if you have no intention of applying to said school. Ensure that your list is balanced with reach and within reach colleges so that you are creating options, not unrealistic expectations.
PS-Has anyone noticed that application fees for domestic students have creeped up to $70 per application? Even high schools have begun to charge students per transcript request. Who hasn’t got their hand in the applicant’s pocket? It’s become a money hemorrhage.
With the advent of the Common Application, it has become way too easy to submit way too many applications. If you have a good balance of schools on your list, 6-8 submissions should be sufficient. There is nothing gained by accumulating acceptances as badges of honor. If you haven’t figured out the school is the best fit for you before you apply, having to sift and winnow through a pile of offers isn’t going to be much easier. Granted, financial aid may be a critical component in your decision making process and that is something you learn only after you’re in. Otherwise, do yourself and the admission readers a favor, and be reasonable about where you apply.
There is no magic number when it comes to how many schools should be on your “apply to” list. I have know students to apply to as few as 3 and as many as 20 colleges. What DOES matter is that your list is well rounded in terms of difficulty (using your academic profile against the school’s criteria for admittance). And remember, there is no need having a “highly likely/safety” school on your list if you have no intention of attending if you are accepted. Remember: if you do your research and look for an appropriate fit, you will have a solid list. Completing applications takes thoughtful time and money — important considerations when you choose schools to which to apply.
I usually advise students to apply to 6-9 colleges. That list should include at least 2 safety schools and target or middle schools as well. The key to a strong college list is making sure that it is well balanced and is not too top heavy with reach schools. In addition to having “admission safety schools”, students applying for financial aid should also apply to colleges that are “safety schools” financially and have costs that are manageable for their budget.
When I advise students, I recommend that they apply to six to eight “first choice” schools. This means that no matter what school(s) they’re accepted to, they’ll be content when they enroll. Applying to too many schools can lose the focus of a student and applying to too few means trouble if you’re not accepted. Six to eight schools is bite sized and easy to manage for students.
Imagine yourself in a small row boat trying to manage twenty different fishing poles, all of them with lines in the water. Do you think you are more likely to catch fish just because you’ve got so many poles working at once? The reality is that you are actually more likely to spend most of your time untangling knots and dealing with other problems. The college application process is not much different. Applying to a large number of colleges doesn’t increase your odds of getting admitted our securing that rare full-tuition scholarship. But it may very likely cause you to conduct a watered down college search and, in the end, make a bad decision. If you do your research ahead of time and take time to visit different types of college campuses (big, medium, small), you should be able to give yourself plenty of options by applying to five or six colleges. Even with just five or six colleges, you can have one safety school, two moderately selective schools, and three reach schools. You can have a combination of both less expensive public schools and more expensive private schools. With fewer applications “in the water,” you are more likely to keep up with the paperwork, meet deadlines, etc. In the end, you will likely only have enough time to fully investigate your top two to three college choices. Better to give those colleges a great look than spend all your time sifting through all the confusion of keeping up with twenty applications.
The classic textbook answer is to apply to between 5-10 schools. Factors to consider when starting the application process are…
-Application deadlines, including whether you want to apply early action or early decision, as well as when you begin the application process, If you’ve procrastinated, it will behoove you to shorten your list.
-How competitive are the colleges/universities on your list? You should apply to a minimum of 3 “safety” schools where you are almost certain to be admitted and that you would like to attend. From there, you may decide to apply to 2-3 “target” schools (around 50-50 chance of admission) and finally 2 “reach” schools, if you wish. “Reach” schools are often defined as schools where admission is unlikely but not impossible. You gamble the most in applying to these schools due to the time you will invest and your slim chance of admission.
-Have you demonstrated interest in the school? This has become a key factor in admission decisions and includes how much research you have done, as well as your contact with the school. Don’t be a stealth applicant–one who applies to a college/university without ever having contacted the school. It’s a likely guarantee you will not be admitted.
Most of my colleagues and I usually recommend applying to between 6 and 10 well-chosen schools. If a student tries to apply to too many schools, he/she might become overwhelmed with the various application and essay requirements, in addition to the fact, that the cost of submitting a large number of applications could become prohibitive. Among the schools that a student applies to should be several that he/she feels almost sure of getting into, several to which he/she has about a 50/50 chance of being accepted, and several “reaches” – schools to which admission is difficult, but for which the student has met the basic admission requirements in terms of high school grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular involvement, etc. In any case, every school to which a student applies should be one that he/she would be happy to attend should an acceptance be received. It’s extremely important to research schools of interest carefully before applying.
Students today are becoming ridiculous about applying to 20 or more colleges! This is NOT necessary! If you do your research and come up with a list of 8-10 colleges that fit your profile and desires there is no reason to haphazardly apply to colleges.
There is no “magic number” of schools to apply to. However, it IS important to make sure that you apply to a good balance of schools with regard to safety, match, and reach schools (with respect to you as a student vs. the average student who gets accepted at the college). For example, if you applied to 6 schools, 1-2 should be safety schools, 3-4 should be match schools, and 1-2 reach schools. Some students apply to far fewer than six schools, and others apply to many more! Applying to fewer schools obviously has an impact on the amount of money you will spend on applications, but applying to a greater number of schools may give you more options on the other end when comparing financial aid packages from the colleges that have accepted you.
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 counsellor’s 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.
There is no single right number of schools to which a student should apply. For some it is love at first sight and the early decision process allows it to be a case of one and done. For others either indecision or financial consideraiotns make early decision an impossible option application and they must wait until they know all their options. What is most important is that you 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 the competitive process.
I would typically recommend that students apply to between 4 and 8 schools. These should include at least one school that the student:
— would be happy to attend,
— is very likely to be accepted, and
— that the family can afford.
Nationally, students apply to an average of 6 schools, but more and more students are applying to an average of 8 schools…
2 reach schools (20% chance of being accepted)
4 target schools (50% chance of being accepted)
2 safety schools (70% or higher chance of being accepted)
– one of these safety schools should also be a financial safety (in state public colleges), I place emphasis on this because schools are expensive and you never know what you are going to get for financial aid. Worse case scenario..if you get all of your financial aid letters back and can’t afford to go to any of your schools, you can afford to go to one of your in state public colleges.
My common answer to this question is 3. My reason for 3 is this: 1) Your first choice; really wanting to attend this college, realilstic chance of gaining admission, realistic financially, appeals to you geographically, degree interest is offered, size of not only the school but town, city, etc. matches your desire and any other things that are important to you. 2) Your second choice or “fall back” school (and many times I suggest a local to somewhat local college if not already considering this & see below for reason); would rather attend your first college of choice however if that doesn’t work for some reason you’d be satisfied with attending this school for a year, two, three, etc. 3) Your third choice or a “Dream” school; if your first two choices didn’t work out for one reason or another then you would be mildly to moderately satisfied with attending this college or this third school could actually be your 1A and your 1 really is your 1B; this means that for one reason or another (cost is an issue, very competitive admission & may not get admitted, or any reason that causes it to be mildly to moderately unrealistic), therfore you have two other options if this “dream” school doesn’t happen.
The other reason I generally tell students & parents 3 is that most colleges have fees attached to applying and even if these are differable it ends up costing money to apply at some point. This is however one of those personal choices; some can or want to apply to 5 or more schools and that’s ok if you want be really not necessary and others only want to apply to 1 college because they say that is the only college they want to attend and that’s the one their going to. Guess what? Life happens…..Family emergencies, financial crisis or unforseen/unplanned costs arise, health issues, etc. All of these could possibly delay attending but if you’ve applied somewhere somewhat local and/or guaranteed to be affordable you still may be able to start and attend even under unforseen or unfortunate circumstances. However, if you’ve not applied to one of these “closer to home” or affordable schools this may not be possible.
The key aspect of creating a college list is not the “magic number” of schools to apply to, but rather that you have a well-balanced list that is appropriate for your academic abilities. I tend to recommend that my students apply to 10 to 12 schools, but this list should comprise mostly schools that would be viewed as “targets” (i.e. the student’s test scores and GPA fall within the median for that school). From there, students should have at least 2 or 3 “safety” schools (where their stats are above the mid-range) where they would actually be happy attending, and as many “reach” schools as they want (though 2 to 4 is more than enough.) Ultimately, you want to ensure you have *enough* choices, but not *too* many.
Most students should create a balanced list of 6-9 schools and then consider applying early to one or more of those.
As a junior, your list of colleges that you are interested in applying to could be as long as you want. I always say 10-15 schools is a good number to have on your list junior year. During the summer before your senior year, you should get that down to 6-7 colleges. Not saying that applying to any more (but it will be expensive) or less (you better be sure you are getting in) is wrong, but it is what I recommend. My advice is to apply to 6 colleges…two that are reach schools, two that are moderately competitive schools, and two safety schools. These reach, moderately competitive and safety schools will be different for each students depending on their grades, scores and other factors involved like athletics. You should always have a “flexible” list though and not a list with all reach or safety schools.
The number is less important than two critical factors:
1. LOVE every school on your list. There are thousands of colleges in the US and fabulous schools accepting students with less-than-perfect records. Take the time and effort to find several “perfect” places.
2. Balance your list in thirds: a set where your GPA and test scores are fully above the range of the mid-50% of last-year’s admitted freshmen, a set where your numbers fit within those boundaries, and a set where your scores and grades are bit below. How many in each category depends on how much time and energy you have for your applications. I think 6-9 is plenty (2-3 in each set), and more than 12 is signing up for a ton of work.
I advocate no more than 10 total schools. There is no reason to apply to more to “increase” chances of getting in. In fact, with the work required in the application process, the more schools you apply to the less you will be able to focus on the important attributes schools are looking for – quality work.
If a student has done their research process well – really understand what makes a school standout, they should be able to come up with a short list. My students have 3 Safe/Foundation schools, 3 Core and three reasonable Reach plus one more in any of the categories.
Time becomes an issue when you apply to tons of schools. But lets look at the admission process for a second. While many schools only have one or two essays others have additional supplemental essays. Some of these may be short or long depending on the school. Let’s say of the nine, four of the schools require additional essays. That could mean four or more essays the student needs to write. Since the supplemental essays are school specific, they need a great deal of knowledge and attention. They require time and significant effort.
Don’t dilute the process. Focus on producing quality work for schools you have targeted. After all you can only attend one school and many students I have worked with find the final one choice the hardest choice to make. Quality not quantity should be rule. Oh, by the way I have searched and searched and still I cannot find the “Just Try” Application.
There’s not really a magic number, but I do think that there are 3 categories of schools that students should consider when compiling their college lists: safety schools, realistic schools, and reach schools. Be careful about those “reach” schools because some schools (the fancy pants ivies, for example) are “reach” schools for EVERYBODY. When categorizing the colleges on your list, be sure to check the median GPAs and test scores (if applicable) for the entering freshman class for the prior year.
And remember, choose wisely. Choose schools to which you would be happy to attend if you were admitted. That way — you are practically assured to have many awesome options in the spring!
While there is no specific number of schools that a student should actually apply to, there are some ways to get a good feel for what you should do:
1. In your junior year develop a large list of schools that appeal to you.
You should do this based upon what YOU want from a school-size, location, specific major, social life, extracurricular activities that match your interests, affordability etc.
2. Over the year do your due diligence on each school-are you a student that fits the school’s academic profile? You must be realistic and take a hard look at your performance in terms of their applicant pool statistics-GPA, standardized scores, rank, etc. You should then hone the list down to no more than twelve schools.
3. Of the 12 schools, make sure that you find a range of schools that fit your criteria that:
-you are likely to get into,
-you have a possibility to get in to,
-are a reach for you
-may be one that’s long-shot.
4. If possible visit the top schools on your list. Use all available resources to more intensely research each school to validate your point of view on the school.
4. Using this methodology you should consider application to six to eight schools max. and you will have covered all the bases for a match and a probability for acceptance that should make you comfortable with your choices.
Perhaps most important of all is to make sure that ALL of the schools on your application list are ones that you would REALLY like to attend!
A carefully crafted college list should consist of around 9 schools. If you have done your research and have evaluated your high school record candidly, you should be able to create a list of 5 target schools, 2 likely schools and 2 dream schools.
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.
At least 1 safety school, 2 realistic and 1 reach…no more than 10 total.
As students begin the application process they need to have a plan and a back up plan in mind. That being said students should apply to six schools with a mix of at least 2 reach, 2 match and 2 safety schools. Reach schools are schools where you are at or slightly below the admission requirements these are your long shot schools, Match schools are where you are at or slightly above the admission requirements these schools you have a good shot at getting into them. Then there are the safety schools where your stats are above the admission requirements these schools you can be reasonably sure that you will get in. Make sure that all the schools you apply to you would be willing and happy to attend. Some students change the mix up slightly or have 2 reach, 3 match and 1 safety school.
Here is my video response to the question.
Short reply: it depends. If Early Decision or Single Choice Early Action, one (and tentative applications to others “Regular Decision” or “Early Action”); if finances are not an issue, 5-8; if finances are an issue 8-12. And that’s a VERY rough estimate, definitely not a “one answer fits all.”
I suggest that students apply to anywhere from 7-10 schools.
The number varies depending on the student and his/her credentials and college-related goals. However, generally speaking, students should apply at 6-to-10 colleges. More importantly, a good list of prospective colleges should include “safe”, “target” and “reach” institutions. A “safe” college is an institution where your academic credentials are better than those of the average incoming student, and where you are likely to be admitted. A “target” college is an institution where your academic credentials are similar to those of the average incoming student, and where you may be admitted. Finally, a “reach” college is an institution where your academic credentials are not quite as strong as those of the average incoming student, and where admission is likely to prove difficult, but not impossible.
I recommend that most students apply to six colleges and universities (all of which they would love to attend) following the following outline:
2 – Academic Reach schools (where the student is at the lower end of or just below the GPA/rank/test score range for the college’s freshman class)
2 – Good Academic Fit schools (where the student is in the middle of the college’s freshman class average GPA/rank/test score ranges)
2 – Top of the Class (where the student is scoring/ranking at the top of the college’s average GPA/rank/test scores – or where admissions is guaranteed)
Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.
About Us |
Disclosure: “What Determines Top/Best?” |
Do Not Sell My Personal Information (CA and NV residents)
Disclosure: Unigo LLC. receives compensation for the featured schools on our websites (see “Sponsored Schools” or “Sponsored Listings” or “Sponsored Results”). So what does this mean for you? Compensation may impact where the Sponsored Schools appear on our websites, including whether they appear as a match through our education matching services tool, the order in which they appear in a listing, and/or their ranking. Our websites do not provide, nor are they intended to provide, a comprehensive list of all schools (a) in the United States (b) located in a specific geographic area or (c) that offer a particular program of study. By providing information or agreeing to be contacted by a Sponsored School, you are in no way obligated to apply to or enroll with the school.
The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.
Sponsored Meaning Explained
EducationDynamics receives compensation for the
featured schools on our websites (see “Sponsored
Ad” or “Sponsored Listings” or “Sponsored
Results”). So what does this mean for you?
Compensation may impact where the Sponsored
Schools appear on our websites, including whether
they appear as a match through our education
matching services tool, the order in which they
appear in a listing, and/or their ranking. Our
websites do not provide, nor are they intended to
provide, a comprehensive list of all schools (a) in the
United States (b) located in a specific geographic
area or (c) that offer a particular program of study.
By providing information or agreeing to be
contacted by a Sponsored School, you are in no way
obligated to apply to or enroll with the school.
Your trust is our priority. We at EducationDynamics
believe you should make decisions about your
education with confidence. that’s why
EducationDynamicsis also proud to offer free
information on its websites, which has been used by
millions of prospective students to explore their
education goals and interests.