How Many Colleges You Should Apply To

USC campus

Flickr user Ken Lund

During the college application season, you’re likely overwhelmed with school work, extracurricular activities, SAT and ACT prep, and more. You may not know how many college applications are enough or how many is “too many.” Each student is different, but here’s a quick guideline on how to approach that question.

How Many Should You Apply To?

It’s generally recommended that you apply from two to fifteen colleges. A more narrow number recommendation would be seven to ten. This gives you some schools you’re very interested in as well as some backups to your dream college.

However, your major, college needs, and wants should also come into play when deciding on how many to apply to. You don’t want to apply to a college that you’re not interested in to imply reach that recommended number. Understand your needs and wants when it comes to your college and work from there. Make sure you’re also visiting the schools to check that they’re the right ones for you.

Why You Should Apply to More Than One

It’s always a good idea to apply to more than one college, even if it’s your dream college and you’re set on attending there. There are two reasons for this. One may be you won’t be accepted. It’s sad but true. You’ll absolutely want to have backups, even if you think you have an ace in the hole with this original choice. You don’t want to run into an issue where you can’t attend any college. You’ll always be welcome to reapply as a transfer in the future.

The second reason is you may actually discover your “dream school” is not a dream after all. Many students actually go to visit this college and then find out it’s not what they thought it was or discovered it just wasn’t for them. You’ll want to have other colleges you’re interested in on your “apply to” list just in case this happens to you.

Go After Reach and Safety Schools

You’ll absolutely want to apply to your dream schools, but that doesn’t mean you should keep your list strictly to those colleges. In fact, you’ll want to go after reach and safety schools.

Reach colleges are ones you don’t think you’ll get into, but there is a slight possibility you might. It’s always worth trying! After all, it won’t hurt. You may have a dream college that is more in line with you academically, but these “above and beyond” schools may be the perfect fit for you too if you’re accepted.

Safety colleges are there as safety nets in case something goes wrong and you don’t get into any of your first choices. They should generally be colleges you’d think you had a 100% chance of being accepted to. You can always attend one of these safety schools, work hard, and try to transfer to one of your first choices after your first or second year.

How many colleges you apply to absolutely depends on you, but always apply to more than one. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you have no school to attend because you put all your eggs in one basket. Think carefully about your wants and needs and then put together a list of colleges that fit exactly what you’re looking for.

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