How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

College-bound students used to be advised to apply to three to five different schools. But today, many high school seniors feel compelled to apply to 15 or more colleges. Don't fall victim to this trend!

With most colleges and universities offering online application, applying to college is a lot easier and faster than it used to be. You might think that with the "Common Application" being accepted by hundreds of schools, why not send one to every Tom, Dick, Harry, college, and university you can think of?

First and foremost, remember that you're going to be spending four years (or more) at your chosen college or university. Do you really want to go just anywhere? Of course not! What if you get to college and learn that they don't offer a degree in your chosen field? Or what if you discover that you hate the locale's climate? Or that the school's atmosphere or social choices don't match your personality? Or that it's too far from home (or too close)? Get just one of these wrong and you'll be an unhappy student — and unhappy students are much more likely to drop out. Do the proper research and apply only to schools that will put you on the right degree path, challenge you intellectually, and offer academic and social opportunities that you will enjoy.

Need another reason to resist the urge to send out a slew of college applications? Remember that as each college gets more and more applicants, they can also be more and more selective about whom they choose to admit. It's simple math: more students compete for the same number of classroom seats. For each extra application a college or university receives, each student's chances of being rejected goes up. You're shooting yourself (and your friends, and their friends) in the foot by sending out too many applications.

Stick to the old rules when applying to colleges: Do your homework. Research each school's degree programs. Visit the campuses. Tour the departments where you may enroll, and the dorms where you may reside. Ask questions. Make sure that you can visualize yourself being happy and successful at every college or university you send an application to. And keep the number you apply to close to five and certainly no more than eight.