Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

College Admissions Video Tip #2

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How many colleges should you apply to? Find out if you can get the application fees waived before you decide.

College Application Fee Waivers. Yours if you need them. Click here to learn how to get them.

How many colleges should you apply to?

Some people will say “as many as you can!” But some colleges will charge you $80 just for the privilege of throwing your application into the pile. That can add up—fast.

Yes, the college admissions process is a little crazy. But here’s the good news: You don’t need to get caught up in the madness. Even better, you can minimize the cost of your college application campaign and maximize your prospects for winning admission to the college that’s just right for you.

You can do so with the help of a simple strategy I’ve used to help guide high school students through the college application process. It streamlines the college application process by helping students (and their parents) figure out what they want in a college. By the time, we’re done, students have sorted the schools that meet their criteria into three buckets:


Where the student’s academic credentials fall well above the school's range for the average freshman, or where the school guarantees admission to someone with your qualifications.


Where the student’s academic credentials (GPA, SAT or ACT scores, and class rank) fall well within (or even slightly exceed) the school's range for the average freshman.


Where the student’s academic credentials fall below, or in the very bottom of, the school's range for the average freshman. Reach schools are long shots, but they should still be possible (and not a dream).

How many colleges should you apply to? These college guides might help guide your decision.

Be sure to check out my guide to the college guides.

With my clients, I like to winnow the list of candidate schools down to no more than four candidate colleges in each bucket—and usually fewer. How many colleges should you apply to? However many remain in the buckets. The key, of course, is to select the right schools for the right buckets.

By “right schools” I don’t just mean schools that reflect your GPA and test scores. I mean schools that are the right “fit” for you. Schools that will help you develop your interests and abilities to their fullest.

That’s where a guidance counselor or a college admissions coach can be invaluable: There are thousands of colleges out there, after all, and it’s our job to know what might be “just right” for you.

If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, however, there are some amazing resources at your disposal. Check out my review of my favorite college guidebook, Fiske Guide to Colleges.

How -to Write a College Application Essay Jenny Sawyer Your College Coach


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