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How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

Written by wahabola

If you are nearing that time of year when applications have to be dashed off to various colleges, this question is probably occupying your thoughts at this very moment. Unless you have stellar grades, test scores and excellent extracurricular, it’s probably best to make at least a couple of applications to a bunch of different schools.

Of course, if you’ve identified your dream school and know that they offer early decision, then it is certainly worth making that one application. If you do get accepted, you won’t have to make any others! However, if you’re unsure whether this college is the best for you, it’s really not a great idea to opt for early decision because that obliges you to attend if you get accepted.

Now let’s assume you aren’t going down the early decision route and are still juggling multiple options.

When it comes to the question of ‘how many’, there isn’t really any hard and fast rule. Some people apply to as few as two and others spread themselves thin filling out as many as 15 applications. Based on experience, education counsellors will advise you to apply to about 6 schools at least. Assuming a healthy balance between acceptance and rejections, this number gives you a selection of varied choices while leaving enough room for rejections. Having said that, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this question. You could take a calculated risk or choose to play it safe.

And how does one go about deciding which ones to apply to?

The best way to figure that out is to first compile a list of all the schools you’d like to apply to and the ones that offer the courses you’re most interested in. Don’t be particularly picky at this point. Don’t feel that any college is out of your league. Sorting them is the next stage of the process.

Now that you have your list, you’ll rate these colleges on a scale of those most likely to accept you to those least likely to do so. The ones that you believe are beyond your reach (but that you’d love to attend given the chance) are what we call “reach” colleges. The ones where you think your grades, test scores and application essay are likely to make the cut are dubbed “target” colleges. Assuming all else fails, you’ll have to have some backup, colleges that you’ll definitely be accepted to. Your final list should have a healthy mixture of all three types. The exact proportions will vary as per your personal assessment of what you think your chances are with each college.

If your list is still very long at this point, you can use other parameters to refine it.

Think about funding, access, extracurriculars, industry internships and any support facilities that you might need. Do some research about the schools on your shortlist. If possible, attend a few open day events or get in touch with current students or alumni to get a better sense of the quality of courses and opportunities open to graduates.

What are your biggest priorities? Are you looking for stellar academics or a mix of academics and extracurriculars? Are you looking for diversity? Would you prefer a focused and specialised course or one with plenty of room for electives? How good is the faculty? Do they offer scholarships? What about opportunities for part-time work or assistantships?

Consider all of these factors to help you whittle down your list and identify the colleges best suited to your specific aims and needs.


Filling out applications can be tedious and a lengthy process, what with personal statements, essays and getting all the documentation in place. So it’s best not to overburden yourself with far too many applications. Follow the process described above to arrive at that ideal number that you feel are worth investing precious effort in.

It is best to write a customised statement for each application. Even when you have a smaller number of such statements to prepare, this work can be exhausting and you may find yourself really struggling to cope with it. Remember that help is available should you need it. Students don’t often realise this but professional essay writers can also help you assemble the perfect personal statement or admissions essay. This will require coordinating closely with the writer to ensure that the piece turns out exactly the way you want it to. Lifesaver essays allows you to contact your writer directly and even assigns a dedicated Supervisor with every order. This way you get top notch service and quality, every time including plagiarism-free essays, delivered before the deadline.

Doing all the hard work of narrowing down your list at the initial stage will save you the trouble of actually putting together for many more applications that you realistically need to. With a more focused approach and fewer applications to assemble, you’ll find that you’re able to do a better job and remain mentally relaxed knowing that you’ve picked your choices carefully and strategically.


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