Ideal Number of College Applications

For so many reasons, the college applications process may seem a bit intimidating to a high school junior. After all, you have never done this before. You are not familiar with the whole procedure. You are scared that your essay won’t be up to par, or that your test scores aren’t high enough. What if none of the colleges you apply to send you an acceptance letter? Fear not. If you follow the guidelines that the expert college applications team at Manhattan Admissions recommend, you’ll be on your way to becoming a student of higher learning at a college of your choice.

  1. Create options.

    Hopefully, as a high school sophomore, you gathered information about colleges in which you are interested, and perhaps even visited over the summer. If your current list is large, your junior year of high school is the time to narrow down your selection. Most experts agree that the ideal number of schools to apply to is between six and eight.

  2. Narrow your list.

    You can narrow your options from a bigger list to the six or seven potential schools by carefully researching each college, visiting the schools in person, talking with financial aid officers, and speaking with students who attend schools you are considering. In addition to academics, make sure you get a feel for campus life. Could you see yourself being part of it? Could you be happy attending classes there? Is it affordable for your family? Once you consider all the aspects of each potential school, a few should rise to the top. Then, you can begin applying, knowing that you would meet most of your goals – personal, career, lifestyle and financial – at any of the schools that accept you.

  3. Create categories.

    Organize your schools into three categories such as: "Most Likely"; "Take a Chance"; and "Backup Plan."

    The schools that fall into your Most Likely category are ones that are a high probability you will be accepted based on your academic achievements and test scores. These schools will also be affordable and/or have decent financial aid options. You could "most likely" be happy attending school at a college in this category.

    Backup Plan schools should be institutions that have flexible admissions standards and policies, and little chance of rejection for the prospective candidate. Maybe you apply to a couple backup plan schools so you can ensure that your academic needs will be met and the low in-state tuition is appealing to your parents.

    Take a Chance colleges are your two or three top schools. You would love to attend one of these outstanding universities – whether it is because of the academics, sports programs, scholarship options or some combination of all these factors – but their admissions policies boast very high standards. You may excel in one of the areas, but fall a bit short in another. Apply to a couple of schools in this category anyway. You never know. The admissions committee may see something unique in your application and offer you one of the limited spaces in the upcoming freshman class.

Applying to more than eight schools can be time-consuming. Even though you may increase your chances of acceptance, you may exhaust yourself with college applications and ultimately end up at a college didn’t even make it into your Top 7 list. Doesn’t it make more sense to give your best effort to six or seven schools, instead of rushing through 20 applications? It absolutely does. And, when all is said and done, you’ll be happier on campus as a result.