Quality Over Quantity — How Many Schools Should You Apply To?
Narrowing down your college list is no easy feat. There are so many schools to choose from — small liberal arts colleges and large universities, schools in big cities and schools in rural towns, brainy schools and party schools, not to mention every school in between.
But narrow down you must. While applying to college is time-consuming and expensive (application fees range anywhere from $40 to $100), it may also be detrimental to create too many choices for yourself.
How could too many choices be a bad thing? Aren’t you better off applying to dozens of schools? Not necessarily. When it comes to choosing a college, you want to be sure that you’re selecting the one that’s right for you. And finding a school that’s just the right fit, tailored to your specified needs and talents, requires a bit of choosiness.
College is the place where you’ll spend four of the most dynamic years of your life — shouldn’t you be picky about it? Don’t just apply to every school in the guidebook; apply to the schools where you see yourself fitting in and thriving. Of course, there is more than one possible school out there for you. Limiting yourself to only one or two applications might be a mistake. Admission decisions can be tricky, and there are no guarantees. So how many schools should you apply to?
Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule, or number. But you can whittle down your choices by keeping a few loose guidelines in mind.
For starters, you probably want to apply to one or two “reach” schools, or schools that you’d love to go to, but on average don’t accept students with your grades or SAT scores. Though these schools may be a long-shot, you never know; something unique about your personality, skills or activities could pique an admission officer’s interest.
Two or three of your choices should be in-the-middle schools, or schools you may or may not gain admittance to. These schools typically accept students with your academic credentials; they’re schools you’d be happy to go to, and schools that are looking for students just like you.
And it’s always wise to apply to one or two safety schools, or schools that will definitely like what they see in your application, given your academic record and the type of students they annually admit. Your accomplishments, grades and test scores should be well above and beyond that of your safety school’s average student. Nothing is for certain in the admission process, but adding safety schools to your list may provide you with a small amount of security.
Ultimately, though applying to a large number of colleges does increase your odds of admission, it may also increase your odds of insanity. Apply to the colleges that are right for you, not every school in the book.