In the midst of your high school angst and anxiety, there’s a tendency to apply to as many colleges as you can consider. Usually, this is not the best idea since it can cause more headache on the backend. College applications take time away from test prep, your current classes and extracurricular activities, areas where admissions officers will be reviewing. Not to mention students who apply to hundreds of colleges may get into hundreds of colleges. What then? Will you take the time to visit and consider each option, including financial aid packages, available courses, study abroad opportunities and the alumni network? Maybe, but you’ll likely be left with too many options and too little time.
According to USA Today, you should apply to between 6 and 8 schools. This will help you refine your choices and focus on the best bets.
Apply to your Dream Schools
At least two of your applications should be to your absolute dream schools. They are the schools that are somewhat out of reach, also known as stretch schools. Although the odds may be slightly against you, apply anyway! It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and push yourself beyond your standard performance. Up your academics, write a stellar personal essay and continue to focus on building relationships with alumni, admissions officers and current students. If you find the college of your dreams, do everything you can to make the next four years a reality.
Apply to your most likely schools
You should also be considering two to four schools that you will most likely get into. These are the sure things that are a good fit, both personally and academically. Pay attention to acceptance rates and talk with current students to get a feel for the campus culture and study body. If these schools make up your best bet, you want to make sure you can study, socialize and grow in an environment that’s right for you.
Apply to your sure thing schools
Always make sure you have two schools you will definitely get into. These schools can be community colleges, or just a lower level school than you’re likely to attend. Regardless of the ranking or prestige, you’re looking for a fallback just in case things don’t go as planned. So if it’s not a done deal, then that college or university should not be on your sure thing list. And here’s a pro tip: Make sure the credits from these “safety schools” can transfer to your top choices in the event you start here, but finish there.
College applications are a matter of quality versus quantity, and you’ll do best by identifying a handful of schools to focus your attention rather than spreading your time too thin.