While a whole slew of new college freshmen are headed off to classes this week, an anxious group of high school students is about to begin the often arduous process of applying to college. For nearly a quarter of those seniors, the process will involve submitting seven or more applications, according to survey data from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.  In fact, the percentage of students submitting seven or more applications has risen to 22 percent from nine percent since 1990. While submitting many applications might seem like a good way to hedge your bets, it also can bring a lot of angst.

Come spring, the applicants will be facing one of two scenarios, says Scott Anderson, director of outreach for the Common Application and chair of NACAC’s Admission Practices Committee. Either they will receive more rejection letters, which can be demoralizing, or they will have more acceptance letters, making the final choice even more difficult. “It would be much easier to narrow that decision now, rather than in April when you’ve got one month to evaluate financial aid packages, go back and revisit colleges, make all of these decisions at a very, very busy time of year,” Anderson told the NACAC’s Admitted blog.

That’s why Anderson suggests conducting extensive research on each college that might interest you, and keeping the list of applications to no more than eight. Some counselors even recommend whittling the list down to five — one “reach” school, one safety school, and three target schools.

With thousands of degree-granting colleges in the United States, most applicants are likely to get accepted to a very good school. “The Chicken Little, sky-is-falling-scenario does not apply to most students, and they need to know that, and feel good about the many, many options that they have, “ Anderson says. “I would advise all students, regardless of what application tool they are using, to be thoughtful about where they’re applying and make sure that every school on their list is there for a reason.”


One Comment

Susie Watts says:

As a college consultant, I think this blog presents some good information. I do encourage students to apply to eight or nine schools because I want them to have options in the end.
Sometimes students change their minds between September and May about what they are looking for in a college experience. As long as the schools on the list are a good fit, one or two additional choices can be beneficial. Too many students choose schools impulsively and for the wrong reasons. The more information students can get about the schools on their list, the better their college decisions will be.