How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

There are so many dilemmas when deciding which colleges a soon to be high school graduate is interested in. The first is, of course, figuring out and prioritizing what you like about a college in the first place. It’s difficult because, realistically, you will never really know what you like and don’t like about a college until you go there. The only way to determine your feelings about a college is to live on campus for a few months, go to classes, and live your life there, also known as, attending the college. But you can’t do that until you get in, and you can’t get in until you’ve applied.

So, someway or another, you have to identify what you want in a college. Is a college’s reputation as a higher education institution most important to you? Is the location what matters most? Do you care about the social environment more than anything else, or the location the college is in? What about the college’s sports team, sororities and fraternities, or clubs and organizations? Do you see yourself as more of a Villanova University, or a University of Virginia?

Ultimately, all of these things will matter, it just comes down to what matters the most. Every college you consider is going to be a collection of pros and cons. It is going to be strong in some of the previously mentioned areas, and weak in others. On a scale of one to ten, each college will probably average out to somewhere between a five and a seven, if every category is weighted equally. No colleges will be perfect, but few will be actively terrible. That’s why it is important to put more weight in some categories than others in order to put some more variance between schools.

All of this is to say that choosing a college is hard. Having already addressed all of that, we’ve made no mention of cost, or how many schools you will actually qualify for. With so many details involved in the college selection process, it is easy to get lost in them.

At the end of the day, no school is going to be perfect. It will be nearly impossible to determine whether you will actually like or dislike a school before you go there. So you should give yourself more than enough options. College applications are a lot of work, but so is transferring colleges, or worse, dropping out. It is better to put the work in now and find the best college possible.

It is essential to apply for as many colleges as you have time for. This will give you as many options as possible when it comes time to choose from the schools you have gotten into, giving you the best chances at picking a good one. But it will also serve as a safety net. If you only apply to the schools you are truly passionate about, you may not end up getting into any of them, and that will be a much worse problem than only getting into college you aren’t so sure about.