If you have a senior at home furiously completing college applications, there’s no doubt you’ve had “the talk”. And no we don’t mean about how to manage the party scene during their freshman year. How many colleges to apply to has become a hot topic. We’ve all heard about students applying to 10 or more schools. Turns out there is a magic number—six. But not just any six. Read on for some details on how to choose the right schools and why less might be more.
How do I decide which schools to have in my six pack?
Most experts recommend that you divide them up by “Reach Schools” – those dream schools that seem like a long shot; “Match Schools,” – those that seem to be a perfect fit for your skills, talents and interests; and “Safety Schools” – those that you are relatively sure you can get into.
How do I know which is which?
That can get a little tricky – and honestly some kids (and their parents) aren’t great at self-assessment. But take some time to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the schools and see objectively how you fit in. Reach Schools are there for a reason, and that’s because admissions committees can be fickle. Your “Reach School” might be all filled up with debaters from LA, but maybe they are still looking for a trombone player from Ohio to round out their freshman class. And “Safety Schools” shouldn’t mean “last resort.” They should be schools that you truly would be happy going to, but that have less restrictive requirements.
Should my initial list have just six?
No, you can start with a larger list in each category, but then it’s smart to narrow it down to two in each category. Consider your major, campus size, geography, extracurricular activities, campus vibe if you made a visit and their interest in you. Ideally, you have connected with them on social media, maybe had a visit or interview, or attended a college night they hosted. The more you know about the schools, the easier it is to decide what’s a good fit.
Why not apply to as many as I can?
Two words – time and money. Sure, it’s become much easier to apply to any of the schools that accept the Common App, but you still have to pay for each application you send off, and the time you spend collecting references and other information for a bunch of schools means that you’re less focused on doing a stand-out job for a more selective list.
Also, don’t underestimate how swamped you are going to be come April when admissions start rolling in. Having too many admissions seems like a good problem to have, but it will feel overwhelming when you have to sort through and make decisions. Figuring out how many colleges to apply to is a personal decision, but hopefully this serves as a great starting point for helping your senior!
While the magic number may differ for everyone, six is a relatively healthy, but still manageable, number on which to focus your efforts.
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