If you’re entering your senior year of high school this fall, you may have begun to give some serious thought to your college applications. Perhaps you’ve already visited some schools last year or over the summer. Maybe you have a few tours planned for the next few months, but haven’t yet fallen for any one university. No matter where you are in the process, the following question will inevitably enter your mind:
How many colleges should I apply to?
While there’s no simple answer or magic number, most college admissions experts and counselors agree that a realistic number is between 8 and 12 institutions. Less than that may be tempting fate, and more than that may be overdoing it. Let’s take a closer look.
All Eggs, One Basket
First off, let’s agree that it’s generally not a great idea to apply to a single school, particularly if it’s not one that accepts nearly every student. Some students choose to do this, and they are accepted and attend that institution. But what if the school you’ve selected doesn’t accept you? Or what if you change your mind and wish you’d considered more options? Even as you narrow down your picks, it’s a smart idea to keep the doors open for a few different opportunities.
A lot of students like to “diversify” their applications by considering several different criteria. You might apply to different schools based on variations in location, cost, programs, and more. Perhaps you’d like a good mix of public and private universities. All these approaches are wise. The more diverse your prospective schools, the more options you’ll have as acceptances come rolling in. As well, many students find their opinions and interests change somewhat over the course of their senior year. Having a range of school choices may prove wise when you discover you’re suddenly not keen to go to that out of state college.
Reaches, Matches, and Safeties
Another way to “diversify” your applications is to choose a mix of schools that represent a tier of selectivity or difficulty. Ivy leagues and top private universities may be “reach” schools for most students. Even those with stellar academics and impeccable records aren’t guaranteed ivy admission. So these reaches are colleges you know you have a shot at getting into. These are the schools you cross your fingers for!
“Match” schools are those which should likely make up the bulk of your applications. Match schools are those in which you fall inside the statistics of the average admitted student. You have a fairly good chance of being accepted at these institutions.
And finally, “safety” schools are those which you know accept large numbers of applicants and which probably do not have overly rigorous admission standards. Applying to one or two of these is a way of “hedging your bets.”
Why Not Too Many?
Applying to dozens of schools may seem at first glance like a great way to turn the odds in your favor. But in reality, this isn’t the wisest move. Adding more applications can be a financial burden (with high application fees at some colleges) and also may equate to less attention given to each application. This could, in effect, reduce your chances of acceptance. Lastly, applying to an overlarge number of schools could simply add additional, unneeded stress to your life.
Looking for advice on what schools are the right choice for you? Contact us today at College Planning ABC, the leading Bay Area college consultant.