Q.What’s the right number of colleges to apply to?

 

A. We’ve seen an increasing trend of students applying to more and more colleges—it’s not uncommon to find students applying to over ten or fifteen schools these days. However, the true driver of success in the admissions process isn’t the number of applications you submit, rather the mix of colleges on your list.

Balance your list with a mix of reach, match and safety schools by comparing your academic credentials to the profile of students each college typically admits. This can be found by visiting with your school counselor, reviewing colleges’ websites, and looking at tools like College Navigator. Ultimately, all of the colleges on your list should match your priorities for academic programs, extracurricular activities, campus culture, setting and financial fit.

A reach school might be your dream college, it checks all the boxes and then some… yet they typically admit students with highly competitive grades, test scores, class rank and rigorous high school curriculums. Most selective colleges in the country (those that admit less than 20-30% of applicants) are a reach simply because of the number and quality of applications they receive each year. Should you apply to one or two colleges in the reach category? Absolutely go for your dream schools! But you also need match and safety colleges to balance your list.

In contrast, a safety school is one that is likely to offer you a seat in their incoming class because your academic credentials are strong in comparison to the first-year class profile. Beyond the increased likelihood for admission, academic safety schools may provide financial advantages in the form of merit scholarships.

Match schools are colleges that historically admit students with an academic profile similar to yours. However, there is no guarantee of admission. These schools may have enrollment caps on selected academic programs due to the strong student interest. Therefore, you should visit these schools and show your strong interest.

Additionally, it’s important to discover the benefits that each of the institutions have to offer. You may find that several of these schools have outstanding programs and opportunities that will serve your interests extremely well.

Do plenty of research, visit as many colleges as you can and make sure you can see yourself as a student at each school you apply to. Academic, social and financial fit are incredibly important to your overall student experience. Having a balanced list of colleges that you’re excited about is the formula for success in the admissions process and for your educational journey as a student.

You may also like:

2020

From the Beginning

From the Beginning

Andrew Spargo likes his newspapers—the printed version—not the online sites. So he was reading The Wall Street Journal in 2003 when he saw an ad for a new way to save for college, called Independent 529. (It’s now Private College 529 Plan.)  At the time, Andrew and...

read more
Doubly Good College Savings

Doubly Good College Savings

Ken and Trina Weingarten know finances and believe strongly in higher education. They have made saving for their daughters’ (Sofia and Elena) college expenses a high priority since they were young.    The couple has operated Weingarten Associates, a financial and tax...

read more
Lessons from the Great Recession

Lessons from the Great Recession

John Heidbreder had funds from an inheritance from his father and he had a great plan – use the money to pay college tuition for his two daughters. In 2003, he put those funds into Private College 529 accounts for each daughter. College tuition was rising sharply...

read more