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  • Writer's pictureMichele Coleman

How Many Colleges Should I Apply to?

I’m often asked, “What is the magic number of colleges that my student should apply to?” Just like so many questions asked during the admissions process, my answer is, “It depends”. Each student is different and unique and therefore the number will change based on the factors and requirements that are unique to that student. For instance, an athlete or performing arts major may have a larger number of colleges on their list than a student who is applying as a history major. Sometimes, the former students need to cast a broader net as they go through recruiting or applying to highly competitive programs. Sometimes the type of deadline that a student utilizes affects the list. If you apply Early Decision and get accepted by December, then you won’t be applying to any other schools.

There is a difference between a list of colleges, and the number of colleges that a student actually applies to, however, an average number ranges anywhere from 6 to 20. In CA the number is typically higher as many students apply to multiple UCs and Cal States. The most important thing about a college list is that it is balanced with admission probability and contains colleges and universities that fit all of the factors that are important for the student and parent.

Here are some general factors to consider:

Personal preference: Consider the type of college you prefer, such as small liberal arts colleges, large research universities, or specialized institutions. Think about location, campus culture, extracurricular activities, and other factors that align with your preferences.

Academic qualifications: Evaluate your academic profile, including your grades, test scores, and extracurricular involvement. Look for colleges where your academic credentials match their admission requirements. This will help you create a list of reach, match, and safety schools.

Financial considerations: Consider the financial aspects of college applications. Applying to multiple colleges can be costly due to application fees, standardized test fees, and other expenses. If finances are a concern, you may want to limit the number of applications.

Time and effort: Applying to colleges requires significant time and effort. Each application typically involves writing essays, obtaining recommendation letters, and completing various forms. Consider your ability to manage multiple applications effectively without compromising the quality of your submissions.

Research and fit: It's important to research and learn about the colleges you're considering. Explore their programs, majors, faculty, campus resources, and student life. Applying to a manageable number of colleges allows you to conduct thorough research and ensure a good fit with your academic and personal goals.

Here is a free resource that helps students reflect on what’s important to them:

Connect with me to learn more!


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