How Many Colleges Can You Apply To?

Our students and families always ask:

• How many colleges should I apply to?
• How many college applications is too many?
• How many reach schools should I have on my list?
• How many schools should I apply to early action?

These are all great questions. And honestly, you can apply to as many colleges as you like. Realistically, if you have done your due diligence when it comes to your college search (virtual tours, college visits, reading websites), you should have narrowed down your choices to a list of probably 8 to 12 schools. On that list, you should have at least 1 school that you know you should get into and that you will be happy to attend. That is the only requirement I have for our students. Although some may feel that you should have the bell curve of 2-3 reach schools, 3-7 target schools and 1-2 safety schools, I am not of that belief whatsoever. Reach doesn’t mean good and safety doesn’t mean bad. There are some students that won’t have 1 reach school on their list, which is perfectly OK. Every student is different, and all factors need to be considered, socially, academically, financially and emotionally, your SAFE match.

The One Criteria Every School on Your List Should Meet

We stress to our students that there is one thing you need to ask yourself about EVERY school to which you plan on applying: “If this school is the only school I get into, will I be happy to go there?” You need to ask yourself if it meets your criteria socially, academically, financially and emotionally. If it doesn’t meet that criteria and you don’t think you will be happy going there, there is no reason to be applying to that school. It doesn’t matter if the application is free or if the school doesn’t require supplemental essays. If you don’t want to go there, you should not apply.

Applying to a Number of Reach, Target and Safety Schools

When creating your list of potential schools, it is important to have a balance of schools. You don’t want to apply to all reach schools since, God forbid, you don’t get into any! And you want to make sure that you have at least one school on your list that you pretty much know you will be accepted to.

So, in answering the question of how many colleges you can apply to, the number is too many if you are applying to schools that you don’t want to go to. As to how many schools you should apply to, we recommend following the ranges and guidelines outlined above. Our blogs How to Find the Best College for Me and How to Narrow College Search can help you identify the schools that best fit you socially, academically, financially and emotionally.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.