How many colleges should prospective students apply to? What if a student isn’t accepted to any of the schools on their list?

One of the most important parts of the college search process is building a smart application list.

It’s critical that students create a balanced list that contains a range of schools, including reach colleges (a lower probability of acceptance) and at least one safety school (schools that the student is nearly guaranteed to be accepted to).

Not only does creating a well-crafted and substantial target list of colleges increase a student’s chances of acceptance, it will also allow him or her to choose a range of schools that might be a good fit for a number of reasons: financial, academic, social and lifestyle.

When students are researching colleges and deciding where to apply, they can use MyCollegePrice’s simple system to sort and organize the schools they’re considering and compare them side by side.

Once you’ve searched for college matches, students can click on the “Pin” icon next to schools they want to add to their list of prospective schools:

Students and families should consider all of the factors important to them when building their list. First, however, for families for whom affordability is one of the primary, “out-of-the-gate” factors driving college selection, they can narrow down their selections based on the estimated net price of attendance — selecting schools that are affordable.

It is easy to find affordable, match colleges using MyCollegePrice’s Results view.  Simply click on the “Your Net Price” column to sort by expected college cost.  If you instead want to see colleges that may be the best academic match for you, click on the “Academic Fit” column.

Next, students will want to make sure their list contains schools with a range of admission rates and acceptance odds. As a general guide, students should pick at least three schools:

Safety school – A college with low selectivity or large institution that the student is well qualified for.

Match school – A school for which the student seems to be a good fit academically, but for which there is still some possibility of non-acceptance.

Reach school – A highly selective institution or one for which the student’s academic qualifications may be slightly lower than the average for that institution.

But, don’t stop there. Having more than three schools on your list is even better. In the end, going above and beyond when building your list by including plenty of colleges in each of these three categories will only increase your success during the process.