How many colleges should I apply to?

How many colleges should I apply to?

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The common concern among many students is, ‘How many colleges should I apply to?’ It can be challenging to determine when a number is too many or too few. Even professionals in the field have varying opinions on the subject, leaving many students confused and uncertain.

So, how many colleges should you apply to? 

Traditionally, counselors suggest that students submit applications to 6-8 universities. However, most students typically apply to 8-12 colleges. If you apply to a diverse range of colleges, this number is reasonable.

It is generally recommended that you apply to 2 safety colleges, 4 target colleges, and 2 reach schools.

  • Safety colleges are those where you have a high probability of being admitted based on your credentials (more than 80% chance). These are colleges where you are confident that your qualifications meet the admissions requirements.
  • Target colleges are those where you have a good chance of admission (between a 30% and 80% chance). These colleges are where your grades and test scores fall within the average range of previously admitted students.
  • Reach colleges are those where your chances of admission are low (less than a 30% chance). These are colleges that you would like to attend if money and qualifications were not an issue.

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Determining the Number of Colleges to Apply to: Factors to Consider

When deciding which colleges to apply to, your interests and needs should be the primary consideration, regardless of professional advice. Here are some factors to keep in mind when determining how many universities you should apply to:

1. Personal preferences

First and foremost, ask yourself which institutions you want to attend and create your college list accordingly. It’s important to note that applying to more colleges means committing more time and money, so it’s essential to carefully consider how many colleges (and which ones) you want to apply to. Prioritizing your college needs and wants can help reduce the number of colleges on your list, so you can focus only on those that offer what you’re looking for.

Another crucial aspect of managing college applications is staying organized. Be sure to keep track of important dates and use The Common App, a standardized application form that many schools use to help students streamline their application process. This will help ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines and can submit applications that you feel confident about.

2. College Profile

Consider which colleges you’re likely to be accepted to and research the college and student profiles. Once you have a list of colleges that fit your criteria, examine the incoming student profiles at each institution closely, including their SAT, ACT, and GPA scores. This information can help you estimate your chances of being accepted into each of your top institutions. Then, organize the schools on your list based on reach, target, and safety.

3. Application costs

Another important factor to consider is the budget you’re willing to set aside for college applications. The cost of applications varies significantly among colleges, and your application budget can be the main limiting factor in deciding how many institutions you should apply to. Be prepared to pay an application fee and a charge to mail your SAT or ACT exam results to each institution you’re considering. Consider how much you can afford to spend on your college applications and allocate that money among your top-choice institutions.

When should you apply to more colleges?

If you are set on attending a highly selective college, you may want to apply to more colleges than the average person. By applying to 10 colleges where you have a 25% chance of being accepted, you are likely to be admitted to at least one college. Statistically speaking, if you apply to 16 universities with an average likelihood of acceptance of 25%, you have a 99% probability of being admitted to at least one college. However, if you choose this course of action, mentally prepare yourself for the likelihood of rejection from most of the schools you apply to.

Why should you apply to fewer schools?

There are a few factors that may limit the number of colleges you should apply to:

  • The cost of applications, time, and money may not be favorable to you
  • You may have specific needs that only a few colleges can meet
  • You may not have much time to make a college decision after receiving your acceptances

Rules to follow regardless of the number of colleges you apply to

There are several guidelines you should follow, regardless of the exact number of schools you apply to:

  • Attend at least two safety colleges
  • Do not apply to any colleges you would not want to attend
  • Study colleges extensively before applying
  • Before being accepted, try to rank the colleges you apply to
  • Lastly, assess your chances of admission realistically.

There is no set maximum number of colleges you can apply to. Although experts frequently advise applying to four to eight institutions, you can submit applications to up to 20 schools on a single Common App profile. No higher governing authority keeps track of your total application submissions, so you are free to apply to as many universities as you think are the best fit for you. Need Funds for your higher education?


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