So how many is too many or how few is too few? Four to six, five to eight, six to ten. There is no correct or at least uniformly accepted response among college counselors. The answer is definitely more than one and less than 100. But where there break off comes is determined by numerous factors.
Let’s take at look at what those could and should be.
As college acceptance levels decrease at the more competitive schools, the number of applications that students will need to complete will be greater to neutralize the playing field. The common application has, in some ways, made that process a bit easier. Students take the risk when they only apply to a few schools of not getting in. Every counselor can recount the stories of top students with exceptional test scores getting denial letters from their small selective school list. Yes there is a cost factor to applying to schools but that cost factor is usually outweighed by the benefits of weighing multiple acceptances and financial aid award packages.
Time is a critical factor in the application process. The student needs to fully research each school. Each application, even if using the common app, is time consuming. Most schools using the common app have their own supplemental essays and questions and rarely can those essays be used at other schools. Time must be spent to craft the best application that demonstrates the students understanding of what the school offers and is seeking and demonstrates the student’s actual desire to attend that school. Unless a student’s senior year class schedule is light and not impacted by significant homework which most top students are facing, then finding the additional time for essays and application completion is difficult. In addition, top schools have earlier application deadlines and may often have honors college deadlines and scholarship application deadlines that all converge in early November.
Students seeking the more competitive and top programs in the nation should consider applying to between 10-15 schools all of which the student would feel pleased and honored to attend. If a school feels like your last choice and you really don’t believe it’s a school you would want to attend then it should not be on your school list. These students should also be taking advantage of early (non binding) action whenever possible. Early action applications give the student a boost in admission chances especially for legacies and just as important you will hear back earlier giving you piece of mind if accepted or additional opportunities to meet later deadlines if necessary.
Students applying to slightly less competitive schools or those applying to their own states top schools and a few out of state but regional choices should apply to 6-8 schools of which two schools should match the students application profile to ensure admittance. Overall, students need to remember that having the right amount of choices typically ensures admittance. Our typical students apply to 8-10 schools with a 70% admit rate. Nationally the average admittance for application to 8 schools is three (3) acceptances. Be calm, be patient and most importantly be confident in the fact that YOU will be going to college next year.