How Big Should My College List Be?

It’s a good idea to apply to more than one college during your senior year of high school, but should you stop at 2? What’s the recommended amount of colleges you should apply to? And how do you narrow down a larger list? If you find yourself asking the question “how big should my college list be” then read on!

A white building on a college campus.

How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

Guidance counselors and others in the education field generally recommend that you apply to about five to eight colleges. This should be a good mix of reach, target, and safety schools. Reach schools are colleges you may have a hard time getting into, but it’s possible. Target colleges are ones that are a “match” for you and you fit the averages of what they’re looking for in a student. Safety schools are ones that you’re almost guaranteed to receive an acceptance letter from and are a good choice if you don’t get into any of your other colleges.

A well-rounded college list should fit your education goals, but also your GPA, test scores, and other achievements.

How Do You Conduct Your Initial Research?

To start your search for colleges, you should begin by considering what you want out of a school. Think about

  • Your intended major

    • You want a school that has your major, as well as a good program

  • Do you favor a small or large class size?

  • Financial aid offerings

  • Location

    • Do you want to attend school in a city or in a more rural area?

  • Housing options

  • Special programs offered

    • Including extracurriculars, clubs, athletics, and other activities

You should also make some plans to visit college campuses. If they’re far away, many schools are still offering virtual visits to prospective students.

Create a running list of schools that fit what you’re looking for.

Luckily, you can do that right here on College Raptor! We’ve got in-depth information for all 4-year colleges in the US. Simply favorite a school that fits your criteria and track your application process.

How Do You Narrow Down a Large List?

It’s quite possible, after your initial research into colleges, that you’ll end up with twenty schools on your list. That’s probably way too many to apply to. It’s a good idea to cut down to the recommended five to eight applications.

First, organize your options into Reach, Target, and Safety. Do you have quite a few Reach schools? Or too many Safeties?

Then you can start cutting down your list by comparing the different options within their categories. You’ll want to compare the academic programs, what alumni think about the school, reviews of the college, job opportunities, and more based on what you’re looking for in a school.

How Big Should My College List Be?

Between college applications, scholarship applications, your senior year, the SAT or ACT, and more, you have a lot on your plate. You don’t want to increase your workload by applying to too many colleges – and you also don’t want to lessen your chances of getting into a college by applying to too few. Using these tips and tricks to create (and possibly narrow down) your list will give you a good amount of potential schools that fit what you’re looking for

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