I often get asked the question, “How many colleges should I apply to?” I’ve heard many arguments for the “right” number of schools and, to be honest, I think it’s all a crapshoot. As every student is different in his or her abilities, profile, priorities, and goals, the right number of colleges for each student is just as subjective.
So what do I tell students when they ask? I tell them to apply to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.
Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight. Sometimes, though not often, it’s many more.
Regardless of your number, here’s a few other things to consider:
Demonstrated Interest matters more now than it ever has.
Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. Visiting, interviewing, emailing and calling admission counselors, sitting in on a class, talking to a coach or faculty member – there are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications.
Application fees add up quickly.
While some schools will hand out fee waivers for having visited their campus, most schools are charging application fees that can range anywhere from $25 to $80 or more. If you’re already wary of costs, racking up several hundred dollars in application fees is not going to help.
Diversity in a college list is a good thing; just don’t get caught up in the idea of reaches, matches and safeties.
I’ve seen it happen plenty of times – a student applies to a school as a safety despite not having any real interest in the school and then ends up having to enroll there due to lack of options or lack of financial resources. Other students apply to a school as a reach simply because the college is ranked highly on US News or Forbes but have no idea if they can afford the school or if the school is even a good fit for them. Schools should not be on your list simply because you think you will be admitted. Rather a school should be on your list because it fits your needs academically, socially and financially. Some schools will be harder to get into than others, but any school you apply to should be a school you love.
Ultimately, there will always be circumstances outside of your control so make peace with that idea and control what you can: which colleges you apply to and how sincere and genuine your interest is. You may not get in everywhere you apply, but if you conduct your college search the right way, you will get into and enroll at a college you love.
If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.