How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?
Beth Dumbauld

One of the first questions students ask themselves is: how many colleges should I apply to? Is it better to take a shotgun approach by doing lots of admission packets, or is it preferable to limit admission efforts to a few choice schools? This article answers these question and more, so read on!

The truth is, there is no set number of colleges that you should apply to. But, according to leading higher education experts, completing five to eight applications is sufficient to ensure that you are accepted to a college of your choice. Narrowing it down to the suggested number of schools will take some critical thinking. Keep these terms in the back of your mind:

  • Reach schools
  • Target schools
  • Safety schools

Reach schools are at the top of your list, but based on how prestigious the college is, or how well you meet the qualifications, you likely have a small chance of being accepted. In other words, these schools are a “far reach.” While reach schools should take one or two slots on your list, you have better chances if you aim at the target.

Target schools are colleges or universities with more reasonable eligibility requirements. Most students, given they have performed well in secondary school, have a good chance of being accepted to these institutions. Dedicate most of your applications to target schools, but keep in mind that sometimes, you need a backup plan.

Perhaps your grade point average is not as high as is should be or your list extracurriculars are practically non-existence. All of these factors are taken into consideration by college acceptance committees. This is why safety schools are so important. These are colleges and universities that have guaranteed acceptance and typically include public universities and community colleges. To be sure that you begin college on time, apply to at least one safety school.

Some students will still hit roadblocks when applying to colleges and universities. But these roadblocks can be bypassed by simply being prepared. Paying attention to the following factors can help you get to the college you desire:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Selection

All college applications have deadlines. This includes submitting an official application, the required college essay, and any additional forms, financial fees or reference letters. Staying on top of the timeline for each school will help you a great deal.

Applying to college can be costly, so save up! The average college application costs between $50-$80 but can cost more, depending on the institution. Make sure your application fee is submitted in a timely manner. Then, all you have to worry about is selection.

Selecting a school is less about your selection of reach, target and safety schools and more about the institution's selection of its students. Applying to schools that are very selective or limit the number of students to a certain program, increases your likeliness of being rejected.

Other Factors You Should Consider When Applying For College

There are many things to consider when applying for college. So, once you’ve sorted out your application timelines and your college application budget, ask yourself these four questions before applying anywhere:

  1. How many schools offer my degree program/major?
  2. Do I want to attend school in-state or travel further from home?
  3. Am I eligible for any scholarship programs from this school?
  4. What extracurricular activities does this college or university have to offer?

The Most Important Thing You Should Do Before Applying To Colleges

By creating a list of potential schools, knowing your deadlines and making preparations to dish out applications fees, you may have guessed that the key to a successful college application process is research. Yes, simply learning all you can about each school and what it can offer you both academically and career-wise, you can achieve the result you want.

Here are some expert tips for getting the maximum amount of information about your prospective college or university:

  • Read the college’s website thoroughly, including the sections on degree programs, extracurricular activities and the admissions process.
  • Inquire about scholarship opportunities, credit transfer, and other financial aid information
  • Reach out to the alumni network and ask about their personal experiences with the college or university
  • Visit the school’s main campus and also see what courses are available online
  • Talk to current students to learn about coursework, professors, administration and more

In addition to following the tips above, you can enhance your future college experience by getting ahead of the curve. Online courses, like those offered by StraighterLine, can save you time and money.

Since your time, money and energy is limited, prepare yourself thoroughly before applying to colleges and universities. Do as much research as you can, follow the admission process to the letter and good luck!

Want to try an online college class? Take two free lessons on us today!

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