You have been researching, visiting, and adding and subtracting schools from your College List? Now, it is application time! The big question: how many schools should you actually apply to?
Everyone has an opinion with regards to how many schools a student can or should apply to. There will always be students will more or less schools on their lists. Five schools is a good ballpark number of schools that you should consider applying to, if you follow a few guidelines:
Have you researched and visited these schools?
If you are submitting an application to any college or university, you are
suggesting you are considering attending this university. As a responsible student, you should have done your research to see if this college has the majors or career interests that you need, as well as the campus life that you desire. Ideally, you should have visited, in person or virtually, before applying. Submitting an application without having done your due diligence in some form is unfair to other applicants and well, a bit irresponsible as it skews the chances of other applicants. Apply only to schools that you really would like to attend.
A balanced list is the key.
A student will want to have schools on the list that he considers Likely, On Target, and Reach schools.
Likely Schools are schools that the student might expect to get into because his standardized test scores and GPA are well within the range of the average accepted student. These are pretty much "sure bets," if you will, although there are always surprises in college admissions.
Target Schools are those schools where the student is in the range of the test scores and GPA, but perhaps one or the other is a little higher or lower. For example, at fictional target school "Patriot University" the average GPA is 3.4 and the average ACT is 27. Your student has a 3.6, and a 22 on the ACT; therefore the Purple University goes in the Target School category.
You can also include a Reach School on your College List. Some call this a Dream School because you think you might not get into it, but again, college admissions can be a bit unpredictable. Universities are sometimes looking to create that "Just Right Mix" of a freshman class and, who knows, your application may be what they are looking for! Perhaps your essay will intrigue an Admissions Dean, or the club you started at your high school that you mention in the interview will be the tipping point.
If you have done sufficient research on schools and visited your top choices, applying to five schools is a number that shows you have given the college search process it's due.