How Many Colleges Should You Apply to?

A Scripted Freelance Writer Writing Sample

There is no magic number of how many colleges you should apply to. Some experts state that the answer is about six with a mix of reach, match, and safety schools, but this number varies for each student and in the end, it comes down to finding the right number for you.

But how to you find this number? There are some simple guidelines and questions you can ask yourself to help you find the right number and keep that college list from getting as long as your arm.

Consider Your Top Reach Schools.

Many top schools are reach schools for any high school student, so do realize that you willneed to have exceptional stats. But that doesn't mean you should give up completely, especially if you're very passionate about that school and think you'd be a great fit. Instead, take a look at these questions before applying to reach colleges:

  • How do your test scores and GPA match up to the average statistics at your dream colleges?
  • Does your guidance counselor think you have a good chance of getting into one or more of your reach schools?
  • Do you have any unique offerings that make your application stand out as you are applying to your reach colleges?
  • Can you really afford the tuition if you get into any of your reach schools?

Make Sure You Really Want to Go to Your Match Schools.

You will likely get into at least one of your match schools, so you should ensure you will actually be happy to accept any offers you get. You can do so by asking yourself these questions while applying to match colleges:

  • Have you visited the campus of each match school? And if so, did you like the overall environment and community? In other words, can you see yourself fitting in?
  • Which geographic area of the country do you prefer? Are your match schools located in these areas and if not, would you be willing to compromise?
  • What are your likely areas of focus, and do all of your match schools offer these majors?
  • Take a look at the extracurricular activities offered and students clubs as well. Do you see any that appeal to you?

Pick Out a Few Safety Schools.

Applying to a few safety colleges is important in case the worst case scenario occurs and you do not get into your reach or match schools. Before you decide how many safety colleges to apply to, consider these questions:

  • What do these schools lack that your reach and match schools offer?
  • Can you improve your college experience or increase the challenge, such as by getting involved in extracurricular activities or applying for an honors program?
  • Would you consider transferring elsewhere if you were not happy with the safety schools that accepted you?

Realize the Effort of Applying to Colleges.

As you determine how many colleges to apply to, keep in mind that most applications take time and money, so ask yourself:

  • Do you have to pay to apply to each college, or are some free to apply to?
  • Can you use the same essay for several schools when applying to colleges?
  • How time-consuming will it be to fill out each application?
  • How much are you willing to pay for score reporting to each school you apply to?
  • How many colleges do you have time to apply to before the deadline for applications?

Once you ponder these questions, you should have an idea of how many colleges to apply to. Your number may be quite different from the recommended six schools, which is why you should think carefully before applying to reach, match and safety colleges.

Already applied to college? Let us know how many you applied to and how you landed on that particular number.

Autumn R
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Autumn has a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University, where she was accepted to the Barrett Honors College. Since 2008, she has written content focusing on the law, real estate, business, insurance, travel, education, digital marketing, and social media. There are few topics she hasn't written about at this point, but she loves learning something new every day, so she's always up for the fun of researching and writing about new subjects.
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