How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?
You know you should to apply to safety, target, and reach schools, but exactly how many of each do you need? It’s easy to say that students should apply to as many schools as possible; however, each application often requires time (even the common app) and money. The number of colleges you apply to should depend on your unique situation. Since you’ll be the one filling out those applications, it’s best to be rational and find a plan that works for you. Here are a few factors to consider when determining that number:
Schools will usually let you know when you should expect to receive an admissions answer. Are you applying Early Decision? Early Action? Does your #1 choice do rolling admissions? You may be confident of your chances of getting into a school that will let you know their decision quickly. If you would have enough time to apply to more schools after you receive the decision (in case you aren’t accepted), you may want to start off applying to only a few schools. If most of the schools on your list won’t give you an answer until May, you’ll probably want to apply to more schools, including safety schools, right off the bat.
Though some schools don’t have application fees and waivers may be available to qualified applicants, you may end up paying a lot of money just to apply to college. Talk to your family or counselor about how you will be paying your application fees and determine a budget if necessary. Need to slim down your application list? Be direct and only apply to schools you think you may actually want to attend. Don’t apply to schools simply to see if you can get in, or just because you told someone you would apply.
Here’s where you need to do some major self-reflection. It’s time to be honest with yourself so you can make an attainable application plan. Ask yourself questions about your past habits and history. Do you tend to bite off more than you can chew? Do you procrastinate? If so, you may want to narrow down your focus so you can be sure you are only submitting quality applications. Do you change your mind frequently? Would any future outside forces/events change your decision? If it’s possible you could decide in May that you’d rather stay closer to home, or if you insist on knowing at least one other person on campus, you’ll want to be sure that you’ll have choices come decision time.
Finally, take into account the amount of research you’ve done and how much left you still need to do. If you haven’t visited any schools on your list by the time you start applying, or are still finding new schools that peak your interest, give yourself plenty of options. On the other hand, if you’ve taken multiple campus tours and have pretty much memorized facts of off admissions brochures, you can probably narrow down your list more. However, don’t be afraid of last minute additions. If a new school catches your eye late in the game and you want to apply, go with your gut if possible. Many schools offer special programs and visits for accepted students still making their final decision.
Of course, there is no perfect number of schools to apply to, and your list may change as you go through and learn from the application process. Stay open-minded, yet focused on the aspects of schools that matter most to you. Visit our Admissions Tips & Tools for more free resources to help you out along the way. Once you're ready for the next step, start applying for those schools using the Cappex Application!