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How many colleges should a student apply to?

worrymole007worrymole007 Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
How many is too many? 15? 10? I am trying to narrow down my list, but I want to make sure I apply to a couple safeties, a decent amount of matches, and a few reaches.
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Replies to: How many colleges should a student apply to?

  • Momma2018Momma2018 Registered User Posts: 299 Junior Member
    I'd say there is no one right answer for everyone. The key is to make sure you have enough likely and match and don't apply to so many that you are spreading yourself too thin. Many schools take interest into account or have a supplemental essay so it can take a lot of effort to apply to 10+. My S applied to 9 and that felt like a good number to us - 3 reach/high match, 3 match, 3 likely.

    Also, if you can apply to some Early Action and get in, you might be able to drop some of the apps.
  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 Registered User Posts: 3,479 Senior Member
    edited June 13
    Max 8-9. As mentioned, a high number will dillute the ability to do really great essays for schools that require them. Don't apply to schools that you would never consider attending because of size, location, etc. And certainly figure out if you would afford to attend a school should you be accepted. So many kids on this site apply to unaffordable colleges and are disappointed later.
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 1,546 Senior Member
    My daughter applied to 8 schools and had to write 19 essays. It was a lot of work and I can't imagine being able to do a good job with many more applications unless they had no supplemental essays. He breakdown was two safeties, two reaches, and four matches of various levels of match (1 high match, 2 matches, 1 low match).
  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri Registered User Posts: 7,091 Senior Member
    Your other thread mentions a drop in grades that will have to be addressed by your GC. I think that means you have to cast a wide net because choosing safeties and matches may be difficult
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 10,826 Forum Champion
    Start on safeties...make sure you would be delighted to attend these.
  • planner03planner03 Registered User Posts: 1,352 Senior Member
    There is no correct answer. S3 applied to 17, most with extensive supplements. It was a full time job, for both of us, to manage the process. He missed close to 20 days of school going on visits. It was overwhelming and consumed his senior year. Was it worth it? I don't know, but if I had limited him to 10 applications for instance, he would be attending a different school right now. He is headed to Stanford in the fall, and it would not have made the short list.
  • CValleCValle Registered User Posts: 837 Member
    Problem is, hindsight is 20-20!

    DD applied to 21 - and it was a full time job as mentioned above. However, it allowed her to have quite a few options at the end of the day, good merit offers, one full-ride offer, and no regrets that she didn't shoot for some of the reachy schools.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 4,129 Senior Member
    "I'd say there is no one right answer for everyone."

    I definitely agree with this. You do need at least two solid safeties. After that adding additional schools depends upon finding matches and reaches which you would actually prefer over your safeties. IMHO students don't need to have reach schools -- there is nothing wrong with attending a university for undergrad where you are solidly in the top 1/2 of admitted students and where you know that working hard will be sufficient for you to do very well.

    You should have a very good reason if you apply to more than about 8 or 9 for the reasons mentioned above: You are going to need to put some thought and effort into each application, and after a while there is a danger that you will either run out of time to do a good job, or will get to burned out on the process. Also, if you apply to a lot more than 10 schools you might find yourself getting accepted to a lot more than 10 schools, which could making picking between them difficult.

    You should find out your budget. The vast majority of students have a budget which is quite a bit less than $280,000. If you are in this group (along with almost everyone else), then you should run the NPC on every university that you are considering and make sure that you are likely to be able to afford it. This might help you cut down the list to a manageable size.
  • MNgurl101MNgurl101 Registered User Posts: 102 Junior Member
    It depends largely on what type of schools you’re applying to. If you’re thinking of mostly applying to very selective schools with supplemental essays, you’ll probably want to keep the number somewhat lower (I’m sure it’s been drilled into your head by others on this forum, but have 1-3 affordable safeties if this is your strategy!). If you’re applying to schools that don’t have essays, then you can probably complete a lot more applications. I personally applied to 10 schools (one reach, one high match-reach, one match-high match, one low match, and 6 safeties) but only 3 had supplements and I could have easily added a couple more reach/high match schools with supplements and had plenty of time to complete the applications. But be aware that honors college and scholarship applications often have essays attached to them as well! I think when all was said and done, I wrote maybe 6 application essays plus the Common App essay, but close to 20 honors college application essays!

    Overall, I’d take your writing speed, level of enjoyment when writing essays, application fees, and the type of college you want to apply to when making your list.
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 21,471 Forum Champion
    Agree that there is no one answer that fits every situation/person.

    One way we cut down on applications was to apply to some rolling and/or non-binding EA schools. That is not possible for everyone (due to SCEA and other restrictions) but my S was able to eliminate some safety schools from his application list as he got into a school he preferred in December (and it took a lot of pressure off the rest of the process).
  • worrymole007worrymole007 Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
    @happy1 I was planning on doing exactly that by applying to Pitt (I live around Pittsburgh) first early in my senior year. So, I would have the mindset that if I didn't get into anywhere else I applied to, I would happily attend Pitt.
  • worrymole007worrymole007 Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
    I am currently estimating (our school does a crappy job of informing us how they determine our gpa's) that my unweighted gpa is between 3.6-3.8 (if you have read my previous threads, obviously my grades dropped this past year-junior year-due to mental illness) and my weighted gpa is between 3.95 and 4.2. Senior year, I am able to take more classes that are of my interest (I'm taking 4 science classes), so I am expecting my gpa to rise. Due to this, I am still unsure of whether or not I should apply early decision or early action somewhere. I would rather have schools see my ability to persevere and raise my grades rather than a sudden (but not extreme) drop in my grades.
  • worrymole007worrymole007 Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
    With my estimated stats, would it be reasonable to potentially have these schools in these positions:

    Safeties: Arcadia University, Pitt (Main Campus), Temple University, Chatham University, Duquesne University, Virginia Tech, Penn State (Main Campus), Florida Institute of Technology, Le Moyne College, Ithaca College, California State University Long Beach, Occidental College, Gannon University, Coastal Carolina University, Stockton University, Loyola University Maryland


    Matches: UConn, Bucknell University, Drexel University, Case Western Reserve University, University of Rochester, Tulane University, George Washington University, University of Vermont, Purdue University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Richmond, Northeastern University, University of Florida, Elon University, Sarah Lawrence College, UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Toronto, Rice University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Fordham University, Colby College, Colgate University, Smith College


    Reaches: University of Southern California, Bowdoin College, Carnegie Mellon, Vanderbilt, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Boston College, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, Georgetown, Barnard College, Emory University, Johns Hopkins


    I know this is a lot. I really need to narrow it down. Nobody around me seems to be good at giving me advice about college, so I'm desperate. Lol. As is obvious, I would really love to go out of state because I'm tired of being stuck in the same place.


    On the March 2018 SAT, I got an 1110 (600 R/W, 510 Math). I didn't take the writing. After I took it, I felt like it actually wasn't that bad. But, I didn't really study due to the mental illness thing and being tired all the time, so... I am taking the ACT in July (hoping/expecting between 30-34). I am not taking the writing section. I am planning on majoring in chemistry or biochemistry. I am interested mainly in science and medicine. But, I have some interest in international relations and government.

    I would prefer to go to a somewhat smaller school that is preferably coed. Although, I have interest in Sarah Lawrence and Barnard.

    I come from a rural area, so I don't know if it would be wiser for me to go to a college in a more rural area since it's going to be my first time out on my own.

    I would say my top choices as of now are Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Pitt, Rensselaer, University of Rochester, University of Virginia, Georgetown, and Case Western Reserve

    I would really appreciate all of your help as I literally have none relating to the college process. Thanks!
  • worrymole007worrymole007 Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
    I should also note that I do not want to go to a school where all anyone does all the time is party excessively. I mean, I don't mind people going out partying on the weekend or maybe on a weekday. But, I don't want to go to a school where people don't have to do anything to get good grades, so they have all the time in the world to drink their butts off.
  • MrElonMuskMrElonMusk Registered User Posts: 1,230 Senior Member
    @worrymole007 Applying to Pitt early is a good idea. You're in-state and if you go to one of their Panther days (I think that's what it's called?!?) you can get a fee waiver. A decision will arrive within weeks, so at least you'll know you're in to at least one school early on.
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