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With thousands of colleges and universities in the US and UK, it might be tempting to apply to as many as possible. The more applications, the better chances of getting in, right? While there is some truth to this statement, it’s not necessarily the best method.
So, how many schools should you apply to? While there is no exact formula or a perfect number of schools to submit your applications to, most students apply to 4-8 universities. So, how do you narrow down your options to create the perfect college list?
In this blog, we’ll talk about the limits and advantages to applying to more than one college, and detemrine how many colleges you should apply to.
Some application platforms set limits to the number of colleges you can apply to, while others are unlimited.
For example, although over 900 colleges and universities use the Common Application, you can only apply to 20 of these schools.
If you choose to apply through the Coalition Application, you may apply to as many colleges as you wish. But keep in mind that only about 150 schools use this application platform.
The UK’s application system, University and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS), limit students to five application submissions.
|Common Application (US)||20 universities|
|Coalition Application (US)||No limit|
|UCAS (UK)||5 universities|
Some universities and university systems bypass these application platforms, and you must submit your application through their personalized system.
For example, if you want to apply to any of the schools in the University of California system, you must submit your application through the University of California Admissions platform. You may apply to all nine campuses, although each campus has its own application fee ($70-$80 USD).
Here are some other popular schools that don’t accept the Coalition or Common Applications. You can always add these schools as part of your college list.
If you have your sights set on an Ivy League university or any highly competitive school, it’s a good idea to submit applications to a solid number of schools.
Grades, test scores, essays, and extracurriculars factor into where you’re likely to gain acceptance. The stronger your application, the better your chance of getting into these elite universities.
Theoretically, the more colleges you apply to, the higher chances you’ll gain acceptance to one of them, but this method has a downside. College applications cost money and take time and a considerable amount of effort.
The Common and Coalition Applications save some time, but many schools also require additional essays and information beyond these applications. Additionally, if you try to apply to too many colleges, you may get overwhelmed, and the quality of your applications could suffer.
The short answer to this question is that you should apply to between 5 and 8 colleges.
To explain it further, the perfect college list consists of schools in three categories: Safety, Target, and Reach. When you choose colleges in each of these categories, you have a higher chance of getting into one of them.
Here is a brief overview of safety, target, and reach schools.
Safety Schools, sometimes called “back-up schools,” are schools you’re practically guaranteed admission to because your grades, qualifications, test scores, and class rank are stronger than the school’s average for admitted students.
In general, safety schools have high acceptance rates. You only need to select one or two schools because you know you’ll likely get into them. But don’t just apply because you know you’ll get in. Choose safety schools that you can see yourself attending.
Note: Ivy League Schools never fall into this category.
To be considered a Target School (or Match School), your grades and test scores should fall into the accepted range of the school’s most recently admitted class.
While acceptance isn’t guaranteed, you should have a 40-60% chance of getting accepted. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but applying to two or three of these schools should give you a high probability of getting into at least one of them.
If your grades and academic credentials fall in the lower range or below a school’s average from the previous year’s accepted students, then that school would be considered a Reach School (also called a Dream School).
Your chance of getting into these schools is low but not impossible. These schools are so difficult to get into because their acceptance rate is extremely low- think Ivy League. That means only a few students get accepted, and even the best of the best sometimes get rejected.
Another reason you may not get accepted to a reach school is because your grades, tests, or general academics don’t match the school’s average. Again, there’s always a chance your essays or extracurriculars might catch the attention of an admissions officer.
Still, if you don’t meet the minimum requirements for a specific school, your chances of gaining admission will be small. Getting into your reach school might be a long shot, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
Before you begin applying to colleges, you should consider the following factors:
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If you’re applying to UK schools on the University and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) platform, you can only apply to a maximum of five courses.
Those five courses can be at one university or five different universities (or anything in between).
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can apply to Oxford or Cambridge through this platform, but you can’t apply to both universities.
Choosing how many colleges you should apply to isn’t an easy decision. Many factors play into this decision. Thankfully, we’re here to help. Here are our top tips for college selection.
It’s tempting to apply to as many colleges as possible, but the best course of action is to choose a select few universities that you’re interested in and to perfect your application to these colleges.
To determine how many colleges you should apply to, choose colleges you’re interested in, and divide them into three categories based on difficulty of admission.
If you need help from experts to determine the best colleges to apply to based on your profile, book a free consultation with our strategists. Crimson students are 7x more likely to gain admission to their dream university.
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