The pressuring question for many students is how many colleges should I apply to. You’ll find some students who applied to a large number of colleges and either got accepted into many of them, none of them, or only in a few. You’ll also come across students who applied to only a few colleges and got into all of them.
Some even take the risk of applying to just the one they most desire… which, to be honest, is a big gamble. So, how many colleges should you apply to so that you’re accepted into at least some of them? There is no set answer to this question. However, there are strategic ways to ensure your acceptance into good college options.
For instance, experts recommend applying to 8-12 colleges should seal the deal. Admissions committees typically accept 4 to 5 college applications, highlighting the importance of being strategic when choosing which colleges to apply to.
The criteria for acceptance vary significantly across colleges. While academic accomplishments are emphasized, many colleges equally focus on sports, community service, background, and other factors. Your college selection should include safety, target, and reach institutions.
Narrow Your Research To Apply To Safety, Target, and Reach Schools
Although experts deem 8-12 as the average number of colleges to apply to, more than the number of colleges is needed. Your application must include a mixture of safety, target, and reach colleges.
Do not think about how many colleges to apply to. Instead, identify colleges that are more likely to accept you and meet your preferences, as well as top-tiered colleges, and create a pool of choices from these.
This can help increase your chances of being accepted to the best colleges. Additionally, applying to such diverse colleges is a great way to consider various majors, promising career options, and increased financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
1. Safety Colleges
Simply put, safety colleges are your fallback colleges. These are institutions with a flexible admission process and less rigid acceptance standards. As such, the minimal requirements of such colleges reduce the chances of rejection.
If your Standardized test scores and GPA exceed the 75th percentile, many colleges automatically become ‘safety colleges’ for you, academically at least. While many students apply to a single safety college, you can apply to more based on both academic and financial safety.
It’s important to bust a myth regarding safety colleges’ academic and social inferiority. However, a student’s exceptional academics can render even the best college their safe college.
So, if you’re wondering which safety colleges you should apply to, consider your GPA and test scores. Safety colleges often provide good tuition fee discounts, making them a strong financial safety option for many students.
2. Target Colleges
Target colleges are also known as ‘Match’ colleges. These include schools a student prefers or desires to get into based on the compatibility of interests, majors, finance, or other factors. It may not necessarily be the first choice, but it is considered a choice you would happily accept.
If your GPA and test scores rank in the 50th or 75th percentile, you can get accepted into target schools. Nonetheless, students must base their decision on something other than the likelihood of acceptance but instead on how much the college matches their interests, academic goals, financial situation, etc. Having a minimum of 3 to 4 applications to target colleges sounds like a good idea.
3. Reach Colleges
Reach colleges comprise the top and highly selective colleges that any student would want to get into. It’s important to remember that it might be difficult to get accepted into them, either due to massive competition with other capable candidates, limited seats, or a lack of a student’s qualification.
Examples of reach schools include Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Duke. These colleges turn down even students with the highest GPAs and test scores. As such, they require your application to stand out in arenas besides academics.
What Happens If You Apply To Too Many Colleges?
The question “How many colleges should I apply to?” often leads to too many applications. But how many colleges are too many? Truthfully, this is entirely subjective! You may think, ‘Is applying to 20 colleges too much?’ Are 15 colleges too much? It all depends on you.
Many students find even a minimum of 10 college applications extremely draining, while some don’t feel as exhausted even after applying to 12 or 15 colleges. This is a decision you must make for yourself.
Applying to too many colleges can cost you your health and college acceptance. Too many college applications mean a heavier workload, additional stress and frustration, and greater dilemmas finalizing a college.
Additionally, college applications are unique. Gathering that many documents, scanning them for online applications, mailing them for manual ones, and the application fees all add up to a lot! Not to mention, choosing between 3 to 4 acceptances can already be difficult. Imagine choosing between 6 to 8 acceptances – the decision can drain you!
How to Research For Shortlisting A College?
Once you have decided how many universities you should apply to, the next step is to shortlist potential colleges. Here are a few valuable strategies that can help you narrow down good schools:
1. Try Common App
More than 950 schools accept applications drafted on Common App. This app helps students save time by giving them a template to draft their college applications. Instead of drafting 5 to 6 individual applications and essays, you can apply to many colleges with this single app.
2. Reuse your College Essay
Of course, writing 10 different essays for different college applications doesn’t seem very feasible. Hence, reuse your college essays for other applications with similar prompts. You can tweak them a bit to personalize them to the new prompt.
3. Apply in the Early Admissions Round
Early applications are a good opportunity to get accepted into good colleges. They increase your chances of admission and reduce your workload of drafting other applications.
4. Consult Your Guidance Counselor
Guidance counselors play a pivotal role in college acceptance. They are aware of all the necessary steps to strengthen your college application. Plus, they can help you find the best colleges and make the application process go smoothly. Remember to seek your guidance counselor’s help while applying.
What Are The Next Steps After Applying To A College?
So this wraps up our short guide on “how many colleges should I apply to?”. Remember, the admission process does not end with submitting your college application. There are some other factors that you should be mindful of, even after the application has gone through.
To begin, keep a responsible check on your email and mail. It is easy to miss emails and forget about the mail that may carry your acceptance letter. Moreover, get a move on the financial aid or scholarship application immediately. Make sure you submit all the relevant documents needed.
It is also useful to keep a check that the relevant college has indeed received your application on time. Finally, don’t forget to visit the potential colleges. If you’re confused about how many colleges you should visit, there’s no limit to that!
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on how early you’ve started the application process. Ideally, you should be aiming to send out applications to 7-12 colleges. But if you’re applying to 15-20 colleges or more, that could be too much. It will require you to start the process very early to not compromise the quality of your applications.
4 college applications to safety schools alone may be okay, but overall it is a small number. Students should aim for a mixture of safety, target, and reach colleges.
Some of the hardest universities to get into include Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Duke, etc. All of these are reach colleges with highly competitive and selective admission criteria.
Yes, you can apply to the same college twice in a different application round. Although, you will need to make a significant change to your application to turn the odds against you. If you have something new to add or you accidentally omitted crucial information from your previous application, adding that can increase your chances of getting accepted.