How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

How many Colleges should I Apply
How many Colleges Should I Apply to?

Many students are concerned about the same issue: how many colleges to apply to; how to make a college list; how many safety schools to apply to; and how do I go about the prepscholar college application process? Further questions involved are: Is applying to three colleges enough? Are 10 colleges too many to apply to? Is applying to 20 colleges too much? Even among professionals, there is so much dispute on this topic that many students are left puzzled and unsure. This misunderstanding will be cleared up in this post. I’ll give you an idea of how many colleges to apply to and will discuss the aspects to consider when determining how many universities to apply to.

When it comes time to write application essays, applying to too many schools can be difficult. Prospective college students can apply to over 3,000 four-year institutions, but deciding on the number of schools to pursue can take time, research, and some soul-searching. Admissions experts advise applicants to carefully consider the number of schools to which they will apply to maximize their chances of being a strong candidate while avoiding the drawbacks that can result from applying to too many or too few schools.

After reading this article, you’ll be able to confidently create your college list, regardless of how long it is.

What is the Magic Number?

Is applying to 20 colleges too much? Applying to one college is a lot of work. Just to complete one application, you’ll need to write essays, submit transcripts, and gather other documents. As a result, applying to multiple schools is a part-time job. While there is no magic number, there is a range of colleges you should consider applying to based on your needs and financial situation. Here’s how to figure out what number is best for you. The majority of prospective students have a list of four to ten schools to which they are applying. 

Your number is determined by the amount of time and money you have available for applications, as well as the types of schools to which you are applying. While there is no specific number that applicants should aim for, experts say there is a range. Experts recommend that prospective students make a list of four to eight schools. Students are applying to dozens of colleges, but is this a wise strategy? With colleges receiving more applications than ever before and admissions rates dwindling year after year. 

Many college-bound students are deciding to hedge their bets and apply to as many schools as possible to secure enough admission offers. Over the years, there have been reports of students applying to dozens of colleges – sometimes 20, 30, or even 50. However, how much is too much? To be honest, you can apply to far too many colleges. Even the Common Application recognizes this, allowing students to apply to no more than 20 colleges. 

Many students, however, get around this by creating multiple Common Application accounts. However, when it comes to making wise application choices, even 20 colleges are too many. The majority of students should apply to 12 to 15 colleges. There are no guarantees that you will be admitted to your preferred school, but you should have a general idea of your chances of admission at each school. These colleges should be a mix of the target, reach, and safety schools, and you should be able to attend any of them.

How to Make a College List?

When applying to colleges, it is critical to conduct extensive research on the schools to which you are applying. Students have to become experts in each college, and it’s difficult to learn everything you need to know about a school to write a compelling application when you’re also applying to 30 other schools. In a nutshell, the greater the number of applications, the lower the quality. 

You want a manageable college list so that you can conduct adequate research and determine whether a school is a good fit for you and how to properly articulate that in your essays. By making a college application list, you will have a visual representation of all your potential schools and will be able to narrow it down from there. To begin filtering colleges, divide your list into three categories: safety, likely, and reach. 

These categories will be based on your chances of acceptance, which you can find using a college acceptance calculator. The shorter your list, the higher your expectations, and—if you’ve selected schools that are strong fits for your academic background—the more likely you’ll be accepted into your first few choices. A longer list indicates that you have a large number of backups and safety schools. Aside from your top choice, you can further narrow your search by categorizing your schools.

a) Reach School

These are the colleges where you know you don’t meet all of the requirements. There’s a chance you’ll be accepted, but it’s not a sure thing. Even if you do not meet all of the requirements, you apply with the expectation that the school will consider other aspects of your application. You might not get in because of the fierce competition. And you may not be admitted, or be placed on a waiting list. But, you should include one or two of these on your list. Of course, it’s also a good idea to have big dreams! You can include one or two colleges where your acceptance rate is less than 30%.

ALSO CHECK OUT:  List of 50 U.S. Universities With a Data Science Major

b) Probable or Target College

You meet all of the qualifications and eligibility requirements for these schools, and you are interested in attending. These may not be your first choices, but you would be content to attend. You should make a list of three possible schools. Include three to five schools that are likely candidates. These are the colleges where you believe you have a reasonable chance of being accepted. Your chances should be between 30 and 80 percent.

c) Safety School

Academic and financial safety schools are the two types of safety schools. You might get into a good academic school, but it might be out of your price range. In that case, you could apply to a financially secure school. You should expect admission invites to safety schools. Perhaps the admissions standards are lower than at some of the other schools on your list. On your list, you should include one or two safety schools. It’s fine to have more schools in each category, especially if you’re just starting. 

How many safety schools should I have? If you’re still in high school, you can narrow down your options as you do more research on schools and go on campus tours. Often, the more invested you become in one school, the less interested you become in others. Begin your list with a couple of schools where you are certain you will meet or exceed all of the requirements and your chances of acceptance are greater than 80%. These are your safe schools and will most likely require only two colleges.

Why Place a Limit on How Many Colleges to Apply to?

Are 10 colleges too many to apply to? Is applying to 3 colleges enough? You’re not even in college yet, but you’re already doing college-level work as part of the application process. This is in addition to your full course load as a high school student and any other activities you participate in, such as sports or academic clubs. Applying to more schools may add to your already heavy workload, as well as cost you more money. In terms of essays, the majority of colleges on the Common Application have supplemental essays, which include additional questions and essays. 

Because each essay should be tailored to the school (again, research is essential!), a significant amount of time will be spent writing, editing, and revising essays. With 2-3 additional essays per school, if you’re applying to dozens of colleges, this adds up to a lot of writing. Even if you begin all of these applications in the summer, with so many colleges to apply to. All of this essay-writing will spill over into senior year when students should be focusing on their grades and extracurriculars. In theory, a student’s senior year should be the most academically challenging. 

And because colleges look for students to improve grades or maintain already high marks, it’s critical not to let other things, such as excessive application essays, take time away from current schoolwork. The college application process is already stressful enough without the addition of extra, and sometimes unnecessary, applications. Students should not apply to colleges where they do not intend to enroll to increase their acceptance rate. This not only adds to application stress but also takes spots away from students who want to attend that specific college. 

It can also become prohibitively expensive. Application fees are not cheap, and only those in greatest need are eligible for fee waivers. Instead, collaborate with your college counselor to create a small, balanced list of colleges you want to attend. Concentrate your efforts on conducting thorough research on these colleges, identifying the academic and social aspects of the school where you would be a good fit. 

If you start early and plan ahead of time, you can complete the majority of your applications before the start of your senior year, giving you more time to focus on your senior year classes. A smart application strategy like this will result in some excellent acceptances come spring, without the need to submit dozens of applications. Learn how a college counselor can assist you throughout the admissions process, including building your resume.

How Much Are College Application Fees?

College is expensive, but even before you get there, you’ll have to pay a fee to apply. The number of colleges to which you apply is directly proportional to the number of applications you can afford to submit. According to a U.S. News survey, the average cost of prepscholar college applications is $43. The majority of schools charge around $50, but some charge more. Stanford University charges a fee of $90. The University of California, San Diego is asking $105 per person. 

It’s difficult to imagine having enough money to apply for just one college, especially if your family doesn’t have immediate access to that kind of money. As a result, many families will find it difficult to pay for multiple applications. If you are unable to afford college applications, you may be eligible for a college application fee waiver. If you took the SAT with a fee waiver in high school or participated in certain local programs that qualify you for a fee waiver, you’ll be eligible for one. You will be able to apply to over 2,000 schools without having to pay the college application fee.

ALSO CHECK OUT:  How Long Does it Take to Get a PhD in 2022?

Although not all schools accept them, you can look for colleges that do. If you qualify, you can apply for as many fee waivers as you need. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling also provides a fee waiver form, which you can send to each college to which you apply for admission. Although not all schools accept them, you can look for colleges that do. If you qualify, you can apply for as many fee waivers as you need. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling also provides a fee waiver form, which you can send to each college to which you apply for admission.

Are You Ready to Start Applying to Colleges?

Applying to as many colleges as possible is one of the best ways to increase your chances of attending college. The more schools you apply to, the more likely it is that you will be accepted into multiple schools. This allows you to pick the school of your choice and even negotiate for more financial aid, rather than being tied to a single school. If your top school is considered highly selective, you may want to apply to additional colleges to broaden your options. Schools with the lowest acceptance rates have the most competition—and a higher chance of rejection.

Everyone doesn’t need to apply to a dozen different schools. Be confident in your decision if you are pleased with you chosen few. Take the time to broaden your application list if you want the extra security of knowing you have a few schools to choose from. Applying to colleges requires a significant amount of time, effort, and money on your part, as well as your family’s. You’ll need to get organized if you want to apply to a lot of colleges. Keep a running list of colleges you’ve applied to, places you still need to apply to, and places you’ve already heard back from.

You will need to prepare files to share with each application and, in many cases, write original essays to accompany them. Time constraints are difficult for everyone to meet on their own. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be for everyone. If you are not eligible for a fee waiver, talk to your family and school about how to pay for prepscholar college applications. Make time to complete your FAFSA as well, so that the burden of college costs isn’t too heavy.

Factors to Consider While Applying

You’re a senior in high school, juggling classes, extracurricular activities, and social life. On top of that, prepscholar college application deadlines are creeping up on the calendar. You need to get to work, but you’re not sure how many colleges you should apply to. You’re not by yourself. While many college counselors agree that applying to five or six schools is a good starting point, the actual number of schools to which you should apply is up to you. So, how do you choose how many colleges to apply to? 

Here are five factors to consider when determining the appropriate number of college applications for you. When deciding how many schools to apply to, you’ll need to balance what you’re looking for in a college with your other priorities in life. This is why:

1. Applying to Colleges Takes Time

Applying to college is not a quick process. Each step of the application takes time, and each school’s requirements may differ slightly. Colleges typically require an essay, which will take up a significant amount of your time when completing your application. The University of Wisconsin, for example, requires two 300-500-word essays that can take up to ten to twenty hours to complete. You must also factor in the time you will spend researching schools and gathering admissions information. 

Visiting college websites or speaking with contacts can take up far more time than you think. In the end, just one school’s application process can take up to 30 hours. Imagine doing that 15 times in a row!

2. College Application Fees Add Up

The average application fee at the country’s over 900 colleges is $44. If you apply to four schools, you’ll have to pay nearly $200 in application fees. If you apply to ten colleges, the application fees alone could cost you $500. The charges do not end there. You should also think about how much it will cost to send your SAT and ACT scores to colleges. You can send them to four schools for free, but you won’t be able to see your results before you send them (yikes!).

You’ll have to pay $12 per score report if you want to know your test results before sending them to the colleges of your dreams. The good news is that colleges and testing centers frequently waive fees for students who can demonstrate financial need. (However, keep in mind that applying for a fee waiver will take longer.)

3. What Are Your Odds of Acceptance?

Before applying to any college, you should think about your chances of acceptance. Examine the college’s GPA or SAT/ACT score requirements and compare them to your own. To give you an idea, the average high school GPA of Stanford University accepted students is 4.18, and the acceptance rate is only 4%. While there’s nothing wrong with having an ambitious school on your list, unless you have an impeccable academic background, you might want to skip this one.

ALSO CHECK OUT:  Top 10 Colleges for a Cheap Online Degree

It is critical to decide how many colleges to apply to so that you do not over-extend yourself. If you’re looking for colleges to apply to with a 3.0 GPA , Penn State University has a high acceptance rate and a low GPA requirement of 3.16. The college admits 94% of applicants, so those are some good odds! However, if your GPA is around 3.8, you may not get the academic challenge you seek. Acceptance rates and requirements can be found on a college’s admissions page. To save time, use a college acceptance calculator to determine your chances of admission to any school in the country.

4. College Applications Require Energy

You must prepare your body and mind for the tasks associated with college application. The more schools you add to your list, the more work you will have to do. The prepscholar college application process can be physically and emotionally draining, especially if your acceptance chances are slim. To make your efforts worthwhile, only apply to colleges where you intend to study. You will save energy by reducing your to-do list and will be able to invest it in improving the applications you do send. Furthermore, if you truly mean what you say, it is easier to create personalized applications expressing why you are interested in a particular school.

5. Prioritize Quality Over Quantity

To determine the number of colleges to which you should apply, think about what you truly want from a college. Then, make sure that it is compatible with the colleges to which you intend to apply. These are some of the most important considerations you’ll need to make:

i. Proximity

Consider how important it is to be close to home. Is it better for me to go to college in-state or out-of-state? You may want to save money and be close to your family, but you may also want to experience the thrill of a new city.

ii. Your Expectations 

Try to figure out which colleges on your list can meet all of your requirements. Do they offer a wide range of programs and activities that you are interested in? Do you believe the quality of your education will be sufficient to challenge you?

iii. Your Capabilities 

Some schools require students to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA). Columbia University is among those colleges to apply to with a 3.0 GPA and students need to maintain this grade to remain enrolled. If you do not believe you want to attend a school that requires a rigorous academic commitment, you should save your money for other prepscholar college applications.


I hope this post has answered some of your questions, such as how many colleges to apply to, how to create a college list, how many safety schools to apply to, and how to begin the prepscholar college application process.

To conclude, your goal is to reduce 3,000 possible universities to a final list of 8–10 institutions. Along the journey, make a list of prospective safe, target, and reach schools, including institutions that are accessible, inexpensive, and wanted.

The easiest way to achieve this is to delve deeper and investigate how each institution truly operates.

FAQs on How many Colleges Should I Apply to?

When Should I Apply to Fewer Colleges?

Applying to fewer institutions isn’t always ideal, but there are situations when it’s necessary. The most apparent rationale for applying to fewer institutions is if you apply for an early decision. In this instance, you can only apply to one institution, and if accepted, you must go. These applications are typically submitted in November, with decisions issued by December, well ahead of ordinary decision application deadlines. If you apply and get accepted to your top early decision school, you will have only applied to one school.

What’s the Verdict?

We advise you to apply to 7–10 institutions but avoid applying to any that you won’t be excited about attending. You can only declare that you have applied to the recommended number of colleges by submitting applications to institutions you don’t want to attend. Instead, we advise you to look for as many schools as you can that meet your specific requirements and goals before reducing the list if required.

How Many Colleges Does the Average Student Apply To?

The majority of students typically apply to 8–12 institutions. Assuming that the applications you submit reflect a wide range of colleges, this is a decent amount to strive for. Typically, you should apply for two safeties, four targets, and two reaches.

Will I have enough time and energy to give each application my all?

The most basic applications need time and effort. So, it is preferable to perform an excellent job on fewer applications than a mediocre job on too many.

Can you tell me why every college on my list is the best fit for me?

You should be able to articulate how each college fits with the requirements you have for happiness and success in college before you add them to your list.

READ ALSO: Free Accredited High School Diploma Online for Adults

COPYRIGHT WARNING! Contents on this website may not be republished, reproduced, redistributed either in whole or in part without due permission or acknowledgment. All contents are protected by DMCA.

The content on this site is posted with good intentions. If you own this content & believe your copyright was violated or infringed, make sure you contact us at [xscholarshipc(@)gmail(dot)com] and actions will be taken immediately.

Photo of author


My name is Queen! For five years, I have been actively involved in helping students get scholarship opportunities in Europe, the USA, and Canada. Currently, I am the Admin of