How Many Colleges Should I Apply To? (Compete Guide)

Getting the right college after a high grade is a crucial factor. There are thousands of universities to which you may want to go to. Which one to choose becomes a difficult task. Also with the competitive admission environment, it becomes difficult for students to make a list of colleges to which they can apply. Thus it is important to know the right number of colleges should you apply to. 

Quick Takeaways

  • You must at least apply to 7 to 10 colleges.
  • If you are looking at higher competitive colleges then you must apply to 10-13 colleges. 

However, you must read till the end so that you do not miss any of the crucial information on the number of schools to apply it.

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To? (Compete Guide)

Common Mistakes that a student makes while preparing the List

Students usually underestimate their potential. This results in creating a list of colleges that are academically inferior. And as a result, the student may apply to those colleges which are less selective and have a lower rate of graduation. One should take care of such mistakes while making the list of colleges. 

How Many Colleges Should Be On My List?

“How many colleges a student should apply to,” is the most common question while looking for colleges. There is no particular number of colleges to which you must apply to. While 7 to 10 colleges are enough, still there is no surety that you will get admission. If they are looking for highly competitive colleges then one must apply to at least 10-13. When you are applying to the college, you must know awaiting fulfilment option that is on your application shows that the college has received the SAT score.

Further, you must also consider senior year grades as it is also one of the best factors that will help you to get into college. Thus it becomes important for you to apply to the college as early as you can.

How many colleges are too many to apply to?

This is another question that comes to one’s mind while preparing the list. Applying to more colleges increase the chance to get selected, but it can become hectic. You need to spend a lot of time doing research about each college. A report in 2015, suggests that about 30% of the total freshman students applied to at least 7 colleges which also includes the colleges that have the highest happy students. There are many students who apply to more than 12-13 colleges, which sometimes turns out to be a waste of time.

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To? (Compete Guide)

Many times students apply to different colleges just to get admission but they forget what they actually want. When they start getting the acceptance letters, they might wonder why did they even apply there. Keeping more colleges on your list is good but make sure to keep them only according to your need. Although there is no limit for applying to the colleges, still don’t add those colleges which may not match your preferences. However, if you are applying to the community colleges you may apply to less number of colleges.

What to Consider When Deciding How Many Colleges to Apply to?

Following are the factors that you must consider when deciding how many colleges to apply to-

Budget Check

This is an important point to remember while applying for college. Exams like SAT and ACT have a fee. Also, the forms that you fill out carry some fee. Even though the amount is very less compared to the tuition fee, but still it becomes an expense for the family. Try to take an SAT test with a fee waiver. This will help you to apply for free to 2000 member colleges. However, you can always work along with studying which will help you to earn some extra if you are on a tight budget.

The rarity of your subject

Do a small research on your subject. What do you want to do in your career? Suppose, you want your career in making macroeconomic policies. There would be many colleges that would have economics courses. But, when it comes to macroeconomic policy development, the list becomes smaller. Further, if you want to be a professional in Anesthesiology, you will have to look for different schools. The rare subject you choose, the narrow becomes the list. You can take the help of the college advisor platform where you can get the name of the schools according to your needs.

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To? (Compete Guide)

Competition among your major programs

If your chosen program is highly competitive, then try applying to more colleges. This will ensure that you get admission to at least one college. If you have doubts regarding the competition of your application, you can talk to the admission officer. 

Considering your other needs

Every student has their own needs and comforts. One may want to go to a college that offers an academically rich atmosphere whereas, the other may need a social nature. When you count on these needs, the list will automatically become shorter. You may also look for parties in the college and thus need the right number of clothes for yourself. There will also be Greek organizations that will help you to increase your network.

Take your time

Applying to colleges is not an easy job. It required a great amount of time to invest. You need to give your time to doing research on various colleges. Each application needs time and every college has its own requirements. The applications may require an essay of about 200-300 words, which may take 10-15 hrs sometimes. Therefore, don’t do it in a hurry, take your time. 

Seeing your comfort zone

When you are making your college list, make sure to add only those colleges that you think will work for you. Many times you might put a college on your list because one of your peers is going there. Try adding three colleges – Safety, Probable, and Reach Colleges.

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To? (Compete Guide)

What are safety Colleges?

Safety college is a college in which your grades and test scores are better than the average student. This means that there is less chance of the application getting rejected. But with this, you must look for the financial safety of your parents. Many students apply to one safety college, but generally, it is recommended to apply to at least 2 safety colleges. This is because there would be many applications from top students, which makes it difficult to get admission.

What are Probable Colleges?

Probable Colleges are those colleges which a student could happily enjoy. Even though it might not be the first choice of the student, still the student might want to go to that college. This is because the college will fulfil the aspirations and desires of the students. A student could add 3-4 probable colleges. 

What are Reach Colleges?

They are those colleges where the accepted grades are more than that of a student. This means that there are fewer chances of an application getting selected. Despite the fact that the chances of selection are low but it is not impossible. There are chances that your practical skills and knowledge may help in getting the application selected.

What happens if you get accepted to multiple colleges?

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To? (Compete Guide)

If you get accepted into only one college, then it’s great. But what if you are accepted into multiple colleges? Then you need to make the choice. Though choosing a college can be challenging, you need to keep calm. Keep some factors in mind while making the decision:

Take time

Selecting a college means giving 3-4 yrs of your life to that institution which is a long time. Take advice from your family or anyone whom you trust. Analyze which college will be the best suited for you. Also, there may be cameras in the classroom, thus you must choose the college according to it.


Tuition fee is another factor that is crucial when deciding the college. Try to know how much debt you will be in when you become a graduate. Will you get your dream job with that college degree or not? Obviously, the ultimate goal of higher studies is to get you your dream job. Also, remember you will have to pay the rent also and thus you will have to take care of the money.

Visit The Campus

If you still have not visited the campus, go and visit it. This will help you to know where will you spend the next 3-4 yrs of your life. You may also be residing on the campus and thus you must also try to meet the RAs of the campus.


Talk to current as well as pass-out students. Use Facebook groups, and Instagram pages to talk to the students. There would be many online student publications of the colleges on the internet. Go check them. It will give you a rough idea about your prospective college. If you are having a college roommate you must be able to as good questions to them.

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To - Compete Guide

Final Decision

Once you have done all the research you needed, it’s time for you to decide which college you will go to. You must trust your intuition. Choose the college where you think you will be most comfortable.


Selecting, which college to choose becomes vital in a student’s life. Most of the students face difficulty while making the list of the colleges they want to apply to. Most of them are unaware of how many colleges they must apply for? There are many mistakes that students do while creating their lists. This article will help the students in deciding how many and which colleges they need to apply to. 

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