How many colleges should you send applications to?

It’s an uncertain but super exciting time of life… college! College applications are no joke. The requirements are high and different for each college. There’s no way of knowing whom the applications panels will favor. One thing is for sure though, applying to a number of institutions will improve the overall chances of being accepted. So how many colleges should you apply to? We’re here to help you figure that out.


Obviously, not applying at all means no acceptance. Applying to at least one is necessary and an applicant could go up to as many as 15 or even more (although this is really not necessary.) In reality though, the safe zone for applications is between six to nine schools. These applications should be spread over three types of colleges. A “safety” college is one where an applicant stands a really good chance of around 80% to be accepted. A “target” college is one where an applicant has around a 50% chance for entry, and a “reach” college is of the more prestigious group where an applicant’s chance for a successful application is around 25%.

How many colleges should you send applications to?

There are also other factors to take into consideration before applying:

Is this the right college?

Doing research on the institutions is crucial. A student needs to make sure that all the colleges they apply to are right for them. It’s absolutely pointless to apply to an institution that the applicant has no desire in attending. The student should base part of their decision on factors like area, subject choices, and sports programs. If a student wants to keep living at home, only choose colleges within a reasonable commuting distance. If the student’s subject choices are highly specialized, there might only be a handful of colleges across the country that offer those majors. If the student wants a career in sports, they should choose colleges that excel in those areas for a better chance of being drafted.

Cost and time

While applying to 15 colleges sounds like a brilliant way to ensure acceptance, it is, but think again. Every college charges an application fee and it costs $12 per college for SAT scores to be sent to them. Round this up to about $85 per application and it starts to look a little grim. A student’s time is also valuable. It takes time to fill out every application and write a different application essay to each institution.

How many colleges should you send applications to?

Applying early decision to a college is a good way to reduce the number of applications that a student has to submit. This means that a student applies to one college that they adore and know that they want to attend above all others. These applications happen in November with decisions made in December, so an unsuccessful applicant still has time to apply at other colleges. An early decision application sometimes has a higher chance of acceptance because the pool of applications is smaller. Watch out, though, if accepted, the applicant has to attend that specific college.

There are around 5300 colleges across the USA. Students are spoilt for choice when it comes to possible institutions to apply to. Always remember that colleges accept whom they feel will add the best value to the school. So make sure that your applications outshine the rest.