How Many College Applications to Complete

College applications: How many should you complete?

We recommend that you apply to 5-10 colleges. It’s important to remember that each application takes a lot of time. Between your classes, exams, extracurricular activities, and social events, applying to more than 10 schools could create unnecessary stress.

Learn about four factors to help you narrow down your college list:

  • College fit
  • Application due dates
  • Cost to apply
  • Liklihood of admission


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Four factors to help you narrow down your college list:

1. College Fit
If you’ve done your research and gone on a campus visit, you should have a pretty good idea of the environment and your likes and dislikes. Eliminate schools from your list that are a bad fit for you, whether it’s related to a program of study, atmosphere, etc.

2. Application Due Dates
Gauge how much time you’ll have before deadlines, and fill out a reasonable number of college applications, eliminating those you cannot fit in.

3. Cost to Apply
If you have a limited amount of money to spend on application fees, this may force you to cut down your list.

4. Likelihood of Admission
Another way to narrow it down is by applying to an equal number of reach, target, and safety schools.

  • Reach: A school where you have a smaller chance of being accepted – your academic profile matches 25% or lower of the students admitted
  • Target: A school where you feel confident you’ll be accepted – your academic profile matches 50% of the students admitted
  • Safety: A school where you’re sure you’ll be accepted – your academic profile matches 75% or higher of the students admitted 

As you’re doing your research, make a point to document the academic profile of an average admitted student (average ACT scores, GPAs, class ranks, etc.). You can usually find this information online. Compare your academic profile to the college’s average student. We recommend applying to 1-2 reach schools, 1-2 target schools, and 1-2 safety schools.

Making Sense of Recent Changes to Admission Policies and Practice

My Journey On-Demand Session

Many colleges and universities have had to adapt and alter their admission policies in response to the pandemic, but along the way some of these changes have made life more complex and challenging for students on the college-going journey. 

Check out this session to benefit from resources and guidance intended to help make sense of some of the dynamic and complex aspects of today's college admissions process.

More Resources for College Applications

A list of resources to help you navigate the exciting journey of applying to college.