When students start to consider which colleges they will be applying to the question often comes up of how many colleges should I apply to? Like much of college admissions the answer is “it depends”.
The biggest factor that should effect how many colleges you are considering applying to is the selectivity of your colleges. If you are focused on less selective colleges then I generally recommend a student consider applying to six colleges. This would include two safety schools where you are sure to get in, two match schools where your grades and test scores make you competitive for the college and finally two reach schools that may be more difficult to gain admission to.
If you are not interested in any college that would be a reach then you might consider two safety colleges and three or four match schools. This is sufficient for most students because the reality is that even in today’s more competitive environment, most colleges accept most of the students that apply.
However, if you are considering applying to the most competitive programs, then a different approach makes more sense. For you I would consider applying to up to 12 colleges. Again, you need to have at least two safety schools. I would also recommend four match colleges and up to six reach colleges.
Is it possible to apply to more than 12 colleges and still do a good job on the applications? Yes, but to do so you would need to be very organized and very focused. I have worked with students that have applied to 25 colleges but very few students can do this many applications and do a good job with each of the applications. And if you are even considering applying to more than 12 colleges, you should have most of your essays in good shape before your senior year even starts.