How Many Applications Are Too Many?

We understand.  You want to maximize your chances of admission by applying to as many colleges as you can.  However, the truth is, you can apply to too many schools.  The Common Application recognizes this and limits the number of schools to a maximum of 20.  Yes, you can get around this by using school-specific applications, but it’s not advisable.

How many schools should I apply to?

We recommend students apply to approximately 10 programs, and in some cases the recommended amount may be fewer for specialized areas of study. Application fatigue kicks in after writing several supplemental essays. You should have a basic idea about your chances of admission after talking with your counselor and researching on College Planner Pro. Your final list should be a mix of target, reach, and likely schools, any of which you’d be happy to attend.

Why should you do your own college research?

When thinking about schools, it’s important for the student to do thorough research on the schools. Students should become experts in each college so they can write an authentic response to the “Why this school?” essay.  If you’re also applying to 30 other institutions, it’s hard to make a convincing case.  Generally, the higher the number of applications, the lower their quality. You want a manageable college list to give you time to adequately research and conclude that a school is a good fit for you.  If you don’t have a specific reason for wanting to go to a particular school, it will be evident in your essays.

Why Place a Limit on the Number of Applications?

Most selective colleges require supplemental essays and short answer questions. To be effective, the student should tailor the essay to the school (again, this is where research is key!). As a result, students will spend a great deal of time writing, editing, and revising essays. With 2-5 additional essays per school, this adds up to A LOT of writing if you’re applying to dozens of colleges.

Submitting Excessive Applications Takes Away from Study Time.

We encourage our students to start applications in the summer prior to senior year. Still, suppose you have a large number of colleges to apply to. In that case, all of this essay-writing will spill over into senior year – adding stress and taking time away from doing homework or other activities. The college application process is already stressful enough without adding additional, and sometimes unnecessary, layers. We discourage students from applying to colleges where they know they ultimately won’t enroll.

Concluding Advice

Build a manageable list of colleges that you want to attend. Spend your time doing comprehensive research on these colleges, identifying the academic and social aspects of the school where you’d be a good fit. If you start early and plan, you can get most of your applications done before the start of your senior year, leaving you time to focus on your senior year courses. A thoughtful application strategy will leave you with some great acceptances without having to submit dozens of applications in the process.