Everyone hopes they will get into their dream school, but of course in reality it doesn’t always work out that way. Plus, some students don’t really have a “dream school”, or they’d prefer to attend whichever college offers them the best financial aid package. Whatever your decision-making process looks like, you’re probably wondering how many college applications you need to fill out.
The answer to that question can depend upon a few factors. Are you a “shoo-in” for most universities? A truly outstanding student can reasonably assume that admission is likely to many schools, although the highly selective ones are never a guarantee. But no matter who you are, it is best not to assume anything, and to apply to several colleges.
So, how many applications should you complete? The most common advice is that you should apply to 7 to 10 schools, although there are some caveats to that rule.
Generally speaking, this number will include 2 or 3 “dream” schools, 3 or 4 reasonable options, and 2 or 3 “sure things”. You want a shot at getting into your dream school(s), but we all know that those colleges often admit only 5 to 10 percent of applicants. So you want to include a variety of desirable back-up options, and a few that you know will accept you. In the event that you aren’t admitted to a dream school, you won’t have to settle. You will likely enjoy several good options and hopefully a few competitive financial aid packages as well.
If you’re applying for Early Decision admission, and you stand a reasonable chance of acceptance, it might be wise to apply only to that school. If accepted, you will know by December. If not, you can still apply to more schools. Going this route can save you money on application fees (usually around $75 per college) and save time on writing multiple admission essays. Of course, you must be absolutely certain that you want to attend this school, because Early Decision does lock you in.
Finally, in some cases it might make sense to apply to many more schools. If you’re determined to attend a highly selective college, it can be difficult to know what qualities they seek in their incoming students. Applying to many different schools can increase your chances of being a match for someone’s freshman class.