How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

By IvyWise on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Number of Colleges Students Should Apply To

More Students Are Applying to Dozens of Colleges, But Is That a Smart Strategy?

With colleges receiving more applications than ever before and admissions rates dwindling each year, many college-bound students are deciding to hedge their bets and apply to as many schools as possible in order to secure sufficient offers of admission. There have been reports over the years of students applying to dozens of colleges ­– sometimes 30, 40, even 50. But is this really beneficial? How much is too much when it comes to college applications?

The truth is, you can apply to too many colleges. Even the Common Application recognizes this and only lets students apply to a maximum of 20 colleges. However, many students get around this by creating multiple Common Application accounts. But when it comes to making smart application choices, even 20 colleges is too many to apply to.

How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

Most students should apply to somewhere between 12 to 15 colleges. There are no guarantees that you will be accepted to your desired school, but you should have a rough idea about your chances of admission to each school. These colleges should be a mix of target, reach, and likely schools, any of which you’d be happy to attend.

How to Make a College List?

When applying to college it’s important to do thorough research on the schools to which you’re applying. Students should become experts in each college, and it’s hard to learn everything you need to about a school in order to craft a compelling application if you’re also applying to 30 other institutions. In short – the higher the number of applications the lower their quality. You want a manageable college list in order to be able to do sufficient research and know that a school is a good fit for you and how to properly articulate that in your essays.

Why Place a Limit on How Many Colleges to Apply To?

Speaking of essays, most colleges on the Common Application have supplemental essays, with additional questions and essays. Since each essay should be tailored to the school (again, this is where research is key!), a lot of time will be spent writing, editing, and revising essays. With 2-3 additional essays per school, this adds up to A LOT of writing if you’re applying to dozens of colleges.

Even if you start all these applications in the summer, with such a high volume of colleges to apply to, all of this essay-writing will spill over into senior year – a time when students should really be focusing on their grades and extracurriculars. Theoretically, a student’s senior year should be the most academically challenging, and since colleges look for students to improve grades or maintain already high marks, it’s important not to let other things like excessive application essays take away from time that should be spent on current schoolwork.

The college application process is already stressful enough without adding a layer of additional, and sometimes unnecessary applications. Students shouldn’t apply to colleges they don’t intend to enroll in just to rack up acceptances. Not only does this create more application stress, but it also takes spaces away from students who really want to attend that particular college. It can also get very expensive. Application fees are not cheap and only those who need them most are able to get application fee waivers.

Instead, work with your college counselor to build a small, balanced list of colleges that you really want to attend. Focus your energy on doing comprehensive research on these colleges, identifying the academic and social aspects of the school where you’d be a good fit. If you start early and plan ahead, you can get a majority of your applications done before the start of your senior year, leaving you time to focus on your senior year courses. A smart application strategy like this will leave you with some great acceptances come spring, without having to submit dozens of applications in the process. Check out how a college counselor can help you throughout the whole admissions process, including building a balanced college list.

Related Topics
College Application Tips, College Essays
 简体中文 »