right arrow
GUEST STUDENT OF THE WEEK: AMALehigh is a rising sophomore at Lehigh University, majoring in Finance. He answers questions about academics, networking, finance, Greek life, or Lehigh in general. ASK HIM ANYTHING!
Make sure to check out our July Checklists for HS Juniors and HS Seniors. Consult these quick resources to get you started on the process this month.
As we work to adjust to the current reality, make sure to check out these dedicated COVID-19 resources: our directory of virtual campus tours, our directory of extended deadlines, as well as the list of schools going test optional this fall.

How many schools should I apply to and how to distribute them

barbthewarriorbarbthewarrior 66 replies12 threads Junior Member
When the time comes (about to finish freshman year), how many schools should I apply to? How should my list break down? (Reach/wheelhouse/safety)
11 replies
· Reply · Share

Replies to: How many schools should I apply to and how to distribute them

  • barbthewarriorbarbthewarrior 66 replies12 threads Junior Member
    According to Google search, the answer is 7-10, with 2-3 in each category.
    · Reply · Share
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83407 replies741 threads Senior Member
    At least one safety with assured admission and assured affordability. Of course, it needs to be suitable academically and otherwise, and not a disappointment if it is the only college you get admitted to.

    Beyond that, any number you want.

    However:

    * If you need a merit scholarship to afford the college, then reach/match/likely/safety must be based on the merit scholarship, not admission. Except for merit scholarships that are automatic for your stats or NM status, merit scholarships should generally be considered reach, due to lower transparency about how competitive they are.
    * More applications = more work writing essays, more application fees, etc.
    * It is not worth applying to a college you would not choose under any circumstances over your safety.
    * If you need merit scholarships to afford colleges generally, your college application list may have to be larger.
    * If the colleges you are considering require additional unique support from others (e.g. unique recommendation letters that are not in common with other colleges), then be considerate of those whom you ask for such support (i.e. do not overburden them, since they have their normal jobs to do and other students to write letters for) and consider whether you really need to apply to those colleges that require additional unique support from others.
    · Reply · Share
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43229 replies471 threads Senior Member
    Everybody has dream schools, so those should be sprinkled on top at the end.
    Start with your safeties. Have an honest conversation about budget with your parents then run the NPC on your public universities (flagships, directionals) and look up merit possibilities there. Are these affordable?
    Then, find more safeties that are affordable.
    Figure out what makes them good for you rather than "just there". You should LIKE and be able to AFFORD your safeties, or they're not safeties... ie., colleges you'd be happy to attend if the others don't pull through for you :p
    Finding out what you like may entail figuring what your dream schools and "wheelbarrows" have in common: do you enjoy participating in sports or spectator sports? Do you want small interactive classes or are you more comfortable anonymous in a large lecture hall? Are you politically apathetic or interested in a particular issue?
    Try to visit an elite LAC, your flagship, a local public university, a Catholic or medium private university, and whatever is within driving distance NOT to attend necessarily but to observe and discern what you like and dislike. Then post on this website again asking for more detailed info "I'd like colleges that actively reduce our carbon footprint, where I can major in Economics with a minor in Creative Writing, and where I could play Ultimate. Budget: 35K/year. Stats: ..., ...." People will then help you narrow what's out there.

    Ultimately you must absolutely, as a bare minimum, have 2 safeties and 3-5 "wheelbarrows". Then add your dream schools, extra universities where you're hoping for merit awards, etc.
    · Reply · Share
  • barbthewarriorbarbthewarrior 66 replies12 threads Junior Member
    Thanks everyone! I'm solidly lower-middle class. Hopefully Caronavirus isn't a factor in 3 years. Things I DEFINITELY want:

    Large, secular, AT LEAST suburban (not an outdoorsy person, surprisingly), politically active and progressive, ethnically/culturally diverse
    · Reply · Share
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83407 replies741 threads Senior Member
    Have you talked to your parents about college costs and run some colleges' net price calculators to check what financial aid may or may not be available at them?

    Parental money is most students' primary limitation on college choice, so it is best to understand what your limitations in this area will be.
    · Reply · Share
  • MWolfMWolf 2589 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Thanks everyone! I'm solidly lower-middle class. Hopefully Caronavirus isn't a factor in 3 years. Things I DEFINITELY want:

    Large, secular, AT LEAST suburban (not an outdoorsy person, surprisingly), politically active and progressive, ethnically/culturally diverse

    Luckily, there are a large number of excellent colleges with those characteristics. Keep those in mind, and put aside a more focused search until next summer, though you can start learning about the different types of colleges, as well as costs.

    Good luck for the summer, and for your sophomore year!
    · Reply · Share
  • barbthewarriorbarbthewarrior 66 replies12 threads Junior Member
    Thank you @MWolf! I DEFINITELY have time on my side. :smile:
    · Reply · Share
  • BenjaminHBenjaminH 4 replies0 threads New Member
    Start with 2-3 schools you’re confident you will be accepted to and you would like going to. Spend your initial time and effort finding those. Then add 3-6 schools you’d really like to go to, but aren’t as confident about getting accepted and/or affording. If there’s time and energy left, look for schools that would be amazing even though there’s little chance of getting accepted. Many do this in the opposite order, to their detriment.
    · Reply · Share
  • Mom270Mom270 73 replies3 threads Junior Member
    I think 7 or 8 is a good number but would not recommend 10 or more due to the number of essays you will have to write. Although most colleges will accept the Common App or Coalition App, each school my son applied to this past year wanted at a minimum one essay about why the student is interested in that school and some elite schools wanted multiple essays, maybe as a way to discourage the number of applicants. I think one school wanted 7 essays, although some were short. With many schools going test optional for the next admission cycle, the essays will probably be even more important.
    · Reply · Share
  • barbthewarriorbarbthewarrior 66 replies12 threads Junior Member
    Yeah, 10 seems reasonable cap. The cost obviously, plus writing all those essays would fry my brain.
    · Reply · Share
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6537 replies1 threads Senior Member
    edited June 5
    I think that the best number of schools to apply to is going to vary from one student to the next.

    The first thing that you need is two solid safeties. These are schools that you know you will get into, that have a good program in your major, that you know you will be able to afford, and that you would be willing to attend.

    Once you have two safeties, how many other schools you apply to will depend partly on how you feel about your safeties. I know a few students whose safety was McGill, and have heard of a few whose safety was U.Texas Austin (auto-admit due to their stats) or U. of Washington or Wisconsin (again with high stats, in-state). With safeties this strong, you might not need as many reach and match schools.

    One friend of a daughter had a very down and up high school record (bad grades 9 and first half of 10, great second half of 10, 11, and 12). They applied to more than 20 schools because they did not know where they would get in. They did end up getting into multiple schools that they were very happy with, and probably should have applied to fewer schools. I agree that 10 is a good top limit, and I think it would have been the right number in this case.

    One daughter decided to attend a small university in Canada. With her stats every university in Canada was a safety. She really did not need to apply to more than 2 or 3 schools in total, but ended up applying to 5 partly because she had not yet figured out which one she preferred and partly because everyone else was applying to at least 5 schools.

    My way of going about this would be to first pick out two solid safeties, and then look for match and reach schools that you would prefer to your safeties.

    The other thing to keep in mind is your budget. We found the NPCs to give hopeful results for some schools and very out of budget for some other schools. The actual offers on the most part came in consistent with what the NPCs predicted.
    edited June 5
    · Reply · Share
Sign In or Register to comment.