Applying to College: How Many Colleges Should You Apply to?

The college search was hard enough, now you’ve got college admissions applications staring you in the face, too. While you may know of a college-bound student in your class who plans on filling out 22 college applications, we’ve got a better answer – both for your peace of mind and your parent’s wallet.

The classic college campus: is this the in-the-middle school for you?

anne.oeldorfhirsch / Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch

If you’ve taken a look at the price of submitting college applications, well, some are definitely more wallet-friendly than others – but it all adds up (you can check out our Apply to College Without Paying a Fee article for ways to get out of that one!). So, just how many college apps should you fill out? Easy – well, sort of.

My College Guide recommends that you fill out between 6 –10 college applications. Don’t just apply anywhere, we’ve got a handy system to the college application madness. Don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as it sounds! Basically, you should apply to the three basic types of colleges: reach schools, in-the-middle schools, and safety schools.

We know that handing over college application fee after college application fee is less than fun, so we want you to know that we are here to help! Check out the three types of colleges that we believe just about every student should apply to – and why! Of course, these schools will vary with the stats of each student, so your BFF’s safety school may match your in-the-middle school. Do your research to see where you fit in and to avoid making college application mistakes!

Reach Schools – So you don’t fit the exact college requirements for admission criteria due to your GPA, your test scores, or some combination of the two. It doesn’t mean that something else about your application won’t make college admissions take a second look! Maybe you’ve got that certain something they are looking for. Don’t sell yourself short – but don’t apply to every hard-to-get-into college, either. Fill out one or two applications and do be aware of the college admission rates. Be hopeful, but realistic – college admissions has their own reasons why a student is in or out.

architekt2 / Hoch Sollst Du Leben

In-The-Middle Schools – Are you in or are you out? With these schools, it can be hard to tell if you will be accepted into college or not. Sure, you have the grades to get in to college and the rest of your college application matches up to their admission guidelines (you’ve even got a couple awesome letters of recommendation) but they can’t accept everyone! Apply to two or three in-the-middle schools that you would be happy to attend (hopefully you’ve visited at least one of them!) and see what happens.

Safety Schools – These colleges will jump for joy to have you! Not only do your standardized test scores, GPA, and your extracurricular activities set you apart from the average students that college admissions normally accepts — which means that you will most likely be “in” (although it goes without saying that even then your chance at acceptance isn’t set in stone). Of course, this is still a college that you are interested in and can see yourself enjoying and loving for four years (even if it isn’t your first choice). Being ahead of the pack has its perks so, safety school or not, your high school accomplishments could net you a nice little scholarship prize.

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  3. How to Apply to College: You’ve Got Options
  4. Common Application: One Application, Multiple Colleges
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3 Responses to “Applying to College: How Many Colleges Should You Apply to?”

  1. […] There are plenty of options to consider and while you may think you have found the perfect college and you just can’t (or won’t) picture yourself anywhere else, there are a  few very good reasons why you should apply to more than one college! […]

  2. Another key here is to be realistic. If plan on applying to 6 or more schools, that can get pricey if you are just “reaching” to see what a school like Princeton says about you and your chances of admission.

  3. […] applying to college seems overwhelming, don’t forget about My College Guide’s awesome free resource: our College […]

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