What Are The First Steps in Deciding How Many Colleges to Apply To?
Your college list is made. You have sorted colleges by selectivity to identify reach, target, and safety schools, keeping in mind factors such as your GPA, the rigor of your coursework, and your standardized test scores. You have completed college visits, explored majors, and considered school characteristics such as size and location, internship options and climate. Now, it’s time to narrow down your list and decide which colleges and how many colleges you want to apply to in the coming months. Is there a magic number? Can there be too many applications or too few? Let’s take a look at some parameters that might help you decide.
Do I Play the Numbers Game?
First, there is no magic number; however, 10-12 applications are generally viewed as a good range. This number of applications should be manageable to complete and provide you with some good college choice options when all is said and done. These applications should be a mix of likely, target, and reach schools. Likely schools are colleges where you can almost assuredly gain acceptance and there is a low chance of rejection. Target schools are colleges where you probably will gain acceptance and be happy to attend. Reach schools are just that – a reach because they will be very competitive to gain acceptance to, statistically. The combination of schools and admission deadline also matters, whether early decision (Binding), early action (not binding), early decision 2, or regular decision. Plus, admission is not only a national landscape but very much local – using Naviance or SCOIR helps calibrate the list. Even then, year-to-year trends may differ. Therefore, optimizing one’s narrative, knowing how to stand out as much as possible while maintaining authenticity, and knowing how to manage the process helps optimize your list and outcomes.
Stay the Course
Remember, college applications take time and energy. Make sure that the colleges you apply to are schools you truly want to attend so that your application reflects your interest and enthusiasm for that particular college. Applying to too many means more rejections, too, so balance is key. Ultimately, with a well-balanced distribution of schools that factors in probability and fit, you will do well. If you are wondering when to start the process, we have found the most compelling narratives require some careful planning throughout all of high school, but no matter when you start, just start. Time will then be on your side.