This question riddles many high school seniors. There’s really no perfect number of colleges a student should apply to, but many high school counselors will encourage you to submit 6-8 college applications. However many you choose to submit, it’s best to make sure you have at least one in each of these three categories:
This is a college you’re almost entirely certain you’ll be admitted to. Many community colleges have very high acceptance rates. Whether or not this college is your first choice, it’s always good to have a fallback plan—even if you only end up attending for a semester and then transferring to another school.
These are colleges that you have fairly high odds of getting into (think like a 50-80% chance). Typically, you can learn about a college’s specific requirements on their website to help you figure out your likelihood of admission.
This is going to be a school that you have a less than 50% chance of admission. Maybe your odds are a little slimmer, but you’re going to take a chance! Just make sure you have a couple applications in the Safety and Target categories, too. Not sure where to look for specific college acceptance rates? This tool from the College Board can be a great place to start.
Other things to think about:
1. Consider application fees.
Some colleges charge a fee just for submitting an application. Be aware of how these can add up. Other schools allow you to apply for free (Bethel University is one of these!).
2. Don’t immediately write off a school due to finances.
You won’t know how much financial aid is available to you until you apply, are accepted, and receive your financial aid letter. Apply away, especially if there’s no application fee!
3. Don’t overload yourself.
Apply to as many colleges as you desire—but not more than you can handle. Prioritize the applications that are most important to you to complete.
4. Ask “is it a good fit?”
Don’t apply to schools you’re not actually interested in attending. Go on campus tours or at the very least visit college websites to get a feel for what you could expect as a student. Check out their academics, the location, the extracurricular offerings, etc. Most colleges will have something like a Student Life page that’ll give you a sneak peak of their campus community.