How to Narrow Down Your College List

on August 30, 2016

If you have begun the college application process, one question has probably crossed your mind – how many colleges should you apply to? While there isn’t a universal number that works for everyone, many counselors recommend students apply to five to eight schools. Settling on what schools to include in that list might be a challenge, so we’re here to help!

There are over 2,700 4-year colleges in this country, so beginning that list may be a little tricky. Think of some factors and school characteristics that are important to you. Such might include location, costs, majors offered, etc… Once you’ve concluded this initial step in the research process, take it a step further. Look into things such as study abroad programs, residential halls, and on-campus clubs and activities. This should help you get your list down to a manageable number.

From there, sort your list into three categories: safety, match, and reach. A safety school is one that you know without a doubt you can get into. A match school is one that you believe you have a good chance of getting into. And a reach school is one that may be a bit of a challenge to get into. A good rule of thumb for your list would be having between 1-2 safety schools, 2-4 match schools, and 1-2 reach schools. If you still have trouble narrowing down your list, keep researching! This may be a good time to schedule some college visits as well.

The college application process is different for everyone. Some may be limited to applying to just a few schools, due the high cost of application fees (if that is the case, be sure to see if you qualify for college application fee waivers!). Other students may have all the time in the world to apply to ten schools. No matter your approach, this is an important decision. Do valuable research and ask those around you for help if you need it! 

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