The Number of Colleges Applications

Number of College Applications, Number of University Applications, Number of College Apps

In short, there is no magic number of colleges a student should apply to (photo credit: Andrew Chen).

Curious about the number of college applications you should be submitting? We’re often asked, “How many colleges should my child be applying to? What’s too many? Too few?” The answer is that it absolutely depends on the student. Well, duh, Ivy Coach. Tell us something we don’t know. We know that’s what you’re thinking. We have a crystal ball, remember? We see things. But it’s the truth. When students come to us late in the process and share with us something like, “I’ve already worked on 16 applications and just want to make sure I’m on the right track,” that’s as good of an indication as any to us that they’re not on the right track. Because when a student applies to so many colleges, the chances he or she tailored each application, and each supplemental admissions essay, to the individual school becomes less and less likely.

When a student cuts and pastes the vast majority of a Why College essay (many colleges ask a version of “Why do you want to go to this school?”) for multiple schools, you bet colleges are aware. A major purpose of the Why College essay is for the school to gauge if the student actually has an interest in attending, to see if they’ve done their homework on the institution. When students cut and paste lines like, “The school’s outstanding education, amazing professors, hardworking students, etc.,” they’re not fooling anyone. What school doesn’t offer a great education with great professors and students? Well, sure, not all schools do but that doesn’t mean they don’t think they do!

So if you’re going to apply to 20 colleges and tailor each application and each individual essay to each of the 20 schools, then, sure, you can apply to 20 schools, the maximum number of schools you can apply to through the Common Application. But if you’re going to tailor only, say, eight applications, then only apply to eight schools because you’re wasting your time applying to the others since highly selective colleges are unlikely to offer you admission with such an ill-advised approach.


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