One question we hear often from parents and high school students is, “How many colleges should I apply to?” That’s a very good question, and the answer is: it depends.
Years back students typically applied to a handful of schools, around 3-5. But in recent years that number has doubled, tripled or quadrupled depending on whom you ask. Some students submit a dozen applications or more, in an attempt to hedge their bets or compete for financial aid dollars.
Of course, when students apply to numerous schools it creates a phenomenon known as Application Inflation. As more and more students apply to certain schools, the fiercer the competition becomes.
And that’s why we generally encourage students to consider applying to 7 schools minimum, according to the following formula: 2 reach schools, 3 match schools and 2 safety schools where you’re in the top 10 to 15 percent of the applicant pool. Be careful about the schools you choose, and don’t apply anywhere where it’s not a good fit. Certainly don’t apply to a school just because your friend, older sibling or parents went there.
I also recommend you apply to at least one “financial safety school" – a college or university that’s willing to give you enough financial aid to make it affordable, even if family circumstances change.
If you want to apply to more than 7 schools, just maintain the 2-3-2 ratio. In other words, don’t add three more reach colleges without adding more match or safety schools.
It’s also a good idea to stay up to date on school requirements before you begin filling out those applications.
Ian Welham helps students find the perfect fit college and helps parents pay for it. Over 5,000 families have benefited from seeing his college funding video, which is no charge to Patch readers.