How many schools should I apply to?

Cyndy McDonaldCyndy McDonald
Founder
Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA)

It's not the number of schools you apply to that is important. It's the thought and care put into each application. If you are applying to some very exclusive, competitive programs at colleges, you may need to apply to up to 30 colleges. If your best friend knows exactly where he wants to go, and knows he can get in, he might apply to one college. The more you search, ponder, and apply based on your needs as a student, the fewer colleges you will need to apply to. And don't forget, applications, test score reports, and other things connected to college applications cost money.

Rhiannon Schade
Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn

This is a question to which there is no absolute answer that works for everyone, but there are some factors to consider that will affect the overall size of your final college list. You certainly won’t have time to apply to all of the more than 4,000 colleges in the country (and many more abroad), so you have to prioritize. I typically recommend having one to three schools where you know your chances of admission are very strong, two to five where you feel the admission decision could go either way, and one to three colleges for which you feel you are reaching. Students following this recommendation can sometimes apply to as few as four colleges and as many as 11. If your college list is longer than 12 colleges, it is very likely that you have not been thoughtful enough about where to apply. In which case, you should revisit your college research and priorities.

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