If you are a prospective college student you may be wondering how many colleges you should apply to, especially if you already have your heart set on a specific college or university and simply cannot imagine yourself going anywhere else. While having a target school is always a good idea, making contingency plans is also always a good idea, and in general applying to as many colleges as possible will only increase your options for the future. But there are a few factors that you may want to consider before sending out a huge number of applications or perfecting just one solitary application. We’ll run you through a few things to consider.

Time, Money, and Effort Matter

College applicants need to think about how much money and time each college application involves, as well as the effort applying to college entails. Each application likely costs a certain amount of money, unless your application fee gets waived, making a large number of applications impractical if you are on  budget. The amount of time each application will take, including filling out forms, collecting documents, and completing application tasks like entrance essays, can easily amount to a few hours per application. And all of this time and money will amount to nothing if you do not put in the genuine effort necessary to make your application competitive and compelling. For these reasons, a simple blanket approach to college application is not typically a feasible method for most prospective college students.

How Many is Enough?

While there is no “correct” answer to this question, in general most students will apply to about ten colleges. That does not mean you should apply to exactly ten colleges as a goal. Rather, it is more sensible to prepare a list of colleges and programs that appeal to your interests and then to select a small number of them to prepare applications for, and ten may be a good number around which to anchor your thinking. Aiming for around ten is generally sufficient to make sure that you can spend enough time, money, and effort on each application to make it worth your while. Simply sending out as many applications as possible will ultimately reduce the uniqueness and care put into each one, so finding a handful of colleges you genuinely want to attend will probably be more beneficial than applying to anywhere and everywhere.

Your Decision Can Be More Focused

Each student is different in terms of their goals, their abilities, and their priorities. You may have a certain degree as a goal, like biology or theater, and you may have a certain career path in mind to go along with that degree goal. Additionally, you have a certain set of grades, extracurricular activities, and test scores that will determine, to some extent, your options for pursuing those goals through higher education. Finally, you have priorities that need to be addressed when making your college decision, like whether you intend to stay close to home, whether you want to study abroad or not, what your financial situation is, and what your support network will look like as you enter higher education. All of these things need to be considered and can help you to narrow your focus to the schools that best fit your goals, abilities, and priorities. Again, ten is not a set number, it is just presented here to give you an idea of how many colleges most people apply to so you can make sure that your effort, time, and money are used in a productive way as you begin your journey into the next step of your academic career. Good luck!

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